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Union Leaders Outraged By President Trump's Actions In Response To Potential Meat Shortage, Citing Unsafe Work Environments

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- President Donald Trump is taking executive action to try to stop a potential meat shortage in stores.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we've seen our share of shortages, mostly things like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, but is the meat supply next?

"You're gonna see less meat products, less pork, less beef, and unfortunately folks, you're gonna see higher prices," said Nelson Eusebio, director of government relations for the National Supermarket Association.

The meat isn't the problem; it's actually due to a case of not enough workers to process the product.

"I would say the first week of May, it's very possible that you'll begin to experience some shortages. It could be spotty shortages at first, but then more widespread," livestock analyst Dennis Smith said.


Red meat production is down 20%.

Supplies are overflowing -- there's no shortage of pigs and cattle -- but the work force is suffering the consequences of the coronavirus.

Twenty-two plants have closed in the last few months, and there have been at least 20 deaths.

Now, the president is declaring plants critical infrastructure, using the Defense Production Act to ensure that they remain open, along with liability protections for companies.

"With the meat-packing and with the transportation, we have had some difficulty where they're having a liability that is really unfair to them," Trump said. "And I fully understand it, not their fault."

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But union leaders say they're outraged by the president's move.

"I only wish that the administration cared as much about workers' lives as they do about chicken and pork and meat products," said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

Appelbaum says meat-packing companies share the blame for an unsafe environment.

"Poultry workers work elbow-to-elbow. We need to spread them apart," Appelbaum told CBS2's Dick Brennan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued protocols for safe practices in plants, but those guidelines are voluntary.

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