About 400 workers were back at the JBS beef plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, as opposed to about 1,500 who would work on a typical day, said Wendell Young IV, president of the 1776 United Food and Commercial Workers Local, who represents workers at the plant . A JBS beef factory in Cactus, Texas, canceled work for many employees who were scheduled for one of their shifts on Wednesday, according to a worker Facebook post.
Mr Young added that the company had told the union that the plant would run essentially normally through Thursday, although workers’ start times would be postponed by a few hours.
JBS did not say whether it paid its attackers and did not respond to requests for comment.
The disruption comes at a time when beef, chicken and pork prices are skyrocketing. Meat packers are struggling to meet high demand, largely due to the same labor shortage issues restaurants and other industries have faced during the pandemic.
“We have this traffic jam in the slaughterhouses and it happens when demand, both domestic and export, has been exceptional,” said Don Close, a senior animal protein analyst at RaboResearch.
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June 2, 2021 at 4:35 p.m. ET
In the past few months, restaurants that have reopened have started ordering beef, pork, and poultry again, and people have started gathering outside and barbecuing as vaccination rates rose and the weather warmed. Increased demand, combined with hiring challenges, has seen wholesale beef prices soar 49 percent and cut steak prices 64 percent since mid-March, according to the Department of Agriculture.
“Everyone suddenly woke up that we didn’t have enough products,” says Altin Kalo, chief economist at the Steiner Consulting Group, which analyzes the protein industry and makes forecasts.
Mark Lauritsen, the international vice president overseeing meat packaging for the food workers union, said many meat packers in the United States are about 10 to 20 percent under the full workforce, but that the situation has gradually improved as the union increases wages with companies like JBS.