Cooper Backs Off Executive Order Protecting Agriculture Workers, Cites Reluctance From State Agencies
Governor Roy Cooper’s office is backing off an executive order that promised labor protections for agricultural workers during the pandemic. State labor and health officials argued they would be unable to enforce the regulations.
The N.C Farmworker Advocacy Network released a statement denouncing the governor’s decision to rescind the commitment to safety measures. The agriculture coalition has been demanding more protection for workers since the start of the pandemic, as first reported by Spanish language outlets Enlace Latino NC and Que Pasa.
Cooper spokeswoman Dory MacMillan told The News & Observer that while “protecting agriculture and meat processing workers is a high priority ... there remains significant disagreement among growers, state labor officials, and workers about overall solutions. “
The original executive order addressed social distancing and sanitation requirements, COVID-19 screenings, and improved access to testing for workers.
The coalition pushing for increased worker protections says they were told by Cooper’s office that because of pushback from labor officials, the executive order would do “more harm than good.”
The state has seen an increase in COVID-19 outbreaks at meatpacking plants and farmworker housing units since the start of the pandemic.