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Ricketts: Only documented workers will get vaccine

Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 6:00 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Gov. Pete Ricketts made it clear that only documented workers will get the COVID vaccine inside these meatpacking plants.

“If you’re working in the plants you’re supposed to be here legally,” Ricketts said during his news conference on Monday. “So to get the vaccination you gotta be working here legally to be a part of the food-processing program, so there’s not going to be a conflict here.”

The governor’s office said meat-processing companies take measures to verify the legal status of their workers. But those on the ground say there are plenty of undocumented meat processing employees. According to recent data from the Migration Policy Institute, at least 14% of meat-packing plant employees are undocumented.

“I’ve been involved in the meat-packing plants for probably 30 years, and there is absolutely undocumented workers working in all the plants. The statement that there are not is patently false,” said Eric Reeder, president of UFCW Local 293.

The union warns the best way to make sure these plants keep up and running is to make sure everyone is vaccinated.

“This isn’t political,” Reeder said. “This is simply a virus that if you don’t put a stop to it or try to make these plants safer you’re not going to keep up with the demand we already have. So if you want to keep them working, you have to keep them as safe as possible.”

Experts weighed in, saying the more people who get the vaccine, the better off people both inside and outside the plants will be.

“Even if someone is undocumented, if they get sick, they contract to someone else, they can come into the hospital and use a large amount of resources,” Dr. Mark E. Rupp, an infectious disease expert at UNMC.

Rupp said if we want essential services to continue, the workers need to be protected the best they can.

“These industries have been designated as crucial and essentials so it would seem like we want to protect the people in those industries,” Rupp said.

But the governor’s office state clearly that Nebraska will prioritize vaccinating citizens ahead of illegal immigrants.

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