The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7, which represents 22,000 workers in Colorado and Wyoming, commemorated six workers at the JBS USA plant who died of COVID-19 by dedicating two billboards in their memory on Sunday.
The photographs of Saul Longoria Sanchez, Tibursio Rivera López, Eduardo Conchas de la Cruz, Way Ler, Daniel Avila and Tin Aye have appeared on billboards in Greeley since mid-June. They are located on 8th Avenue and Highway 34.
“We gather here today to pay our respects to honor our six beloved heroes who died while working to ensure that our communities were fed,” said Local President Kim Cordova at a ceremony in Greeley. She added that the billboards went up because “we wanted the community to know and remember these workers. They had a name. They had a face. They had a heartbeat. They had a soul.”
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet slammed President Donald Trump in his remarks, by referencing how earlier that day, “the president retweeted a tweet where somebody was yelling, ‘white supremacy, white supremacy,’” he said. “We are one nation under God for a reason and that reason is to cope with a pandemic like the one we have. Every single one of us matters.”
Trump tweeted, then deleted, a video of his supporters at a Florida retirement village chanting “white power.”
“These are essential workers,” Bennet concluded. “We need to remember them today and tomorrow and every day ... by making sure that the workplace is safe here and all across the country. I think that would be the greatest memorial that we could have.”
Cordova also called for an end of a "work-while-sick culture" and the institution of paid family and medical leave. The General Assembly recently passed a bill to mandate paid sick leave for employees beginning in 2021.
“When the President of the United States issued an executive order forcing these packing houses to stay open even though workers were sick, what he told us is that workers were disposable and that they were sacrificial," she added. "They are not."
In a statement, JBS's head of corporate affairs, Cameron Bruett, said the company supports the billboard tribute. "Over the last five months, COVID-19 has taken six of our Greeley beef team members, each of whom was beloved by their work family. We mourn their loss every day, and we grieve alongside the community, and most importantly, the families they leave behind," Bruett said.
He explained that by staggering shifts, providing protective equipment, and employing technology to address air ventilation and purification, the Greeley plant has expanded its preventive measures.