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'This is not a playing matter': Perdue plant employees walk out over COVID-19 concerns

Close to 50 employees who walked out Monday morning say some workers on the production line were in contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19

KATHLEEN, Ga. — The Perdue plant in Kathleen was a little emptier Monday after about 50 employees walked out.

They said they don't feel safe working around people who have potentially been exposed to coronavirus and want the plant to do more to protect their employees.

"We're not getting nothing -- no type of compensation, no nothing, not even no cleanliness, no extra pay -- no nothing. We're up here risking our life for chicken," said employee Kendaliyn Granville.

She said people still working on the production line said they have been exposed to coronavirus.

Granville said her supervisors are telling them they are sanitizing the building every night, but when she comes in every morning, there is food on the floor from the night before and the bathrooms are still dirty.

"All we're asking now is just to sanitize the building. Sanitize the building. Everybody that's been exposed to it, they need to go home. These folks are still on the floor."

Diamond Gray said this is about more than coronavirus concerns. She said they are tired of accepting the bare minimum.

"We're told there's going to be more promotions and more pay for the company, but no one has seen that," said Gray. "I think a lot of people are just tired and with the virus involved. Also, I think it's just gotten to the point where enough is enough."

James Braswell said he's heard of other companies getting extra pay for working during the pandemic, but Perdue is "business as usual."

"We feel like the people who they love, they're letting them work from home, but they got us in here working," said Braswell.

He said supervisors are telling them the building is getting cleaned nightly and putting out hand sanitizers for the workers, but he said it's not enough.

"We gotta go home to our family because you know some of our family, some of our kids and all that, they’re at home, you know what I’m saying? Quarantined, but we’re out here working and all that and being exposed."

Granville said it's time to take a stand.

"You want us to go back on the floor to work? No, first sanitize the line, something, because this is not a playing matter. This is not a game."

Houston County Sheriff's deputies were called and the group dispersed, but they didn't have any other information. Granville said most of the group went home.

Perdue Farms sent the following statement via email to 13WMAZ:

We know that many are feeling anxious during these uncertain times, and we’re doing everything we can to take good care of our Associates while continuing to produce safe and reliable food. Last week, the federal government deemed food industry workers as mission-critical personnel. This is a huge responsibility, and we are committed to fulfilling it while keeping our Associates safe.

We’ve stepped up a number of our protocols to help ensure the health and wellness of our Associates, such as:

  • We’ve increased cleaning protocols in all of our offices and facilities, not only for sanitation but also in common areas, cafeterias, and locker rooms.
  • All of our associates have up to four weeks of paid time off, and we encourage them to stay home if they feel ill or may have been exposed to the virus. Importantly, we are also working to make our paid leave policies even more flexible during this time to be responsive and provide added relief to Associates.
  • We’ve encouraged any Associate feeling ill to call his or her local healthcare provider, or make use of the onsite Wellness Centers at our facilities, which are available to all Associates and their families free of charge. The staff at our Wellness Centers are trained on how to protect our Associates from, and identify and respond to, symptoms of COVID-19. These professionals follow standard operating procedures as defined by the CDC for infectious diseases. We have extended the hours of many of our onsite Wellness Centers for the foreseeable future.

Knowing that the COVID-19 situation is very fluid, we are assessing our policies as needed and are making sure we take thoughtful care of our Associates as it continues to evolve.

Thanks in large part to our dedicated Associates, Perdue, together with other food companies, will play a meaningful part in helping to keep people fed as the world grapples with and recovers from this significant challenge.

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FACTS NOT FEAR | At 13WMAZ, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the coronavirus. To see our full coverage, visit our site section here: www.13wmaz.com/Coronavirus.

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