Governor Has Bad News for Undocumented Workers on Vaccine

Nebraska's Pete Ricketts suggests undocumented meatpacking employees won't be eligible to get it
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2021 8:32 AM CST
Governor Suggests Undocumented Workers Won't Get Vaccine
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks during a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., on Sept. 30, 2020.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Nebraska is where you'll find the bulk of the nation's meatpacking, so it makes sense that Nebraska is where the most coronavirus cases are popping up in meatpacking plants. What doesn't make sense to some are comments from the state's governor that suggest a portion of employees at those plants will be denied the COVID vaccine. At a Monday presser, Pete Ricketts said he does "not expect that [undocumented workers] will be part of that vaccine program," though he also insisted that workers must be documented to work in these plants, so there won't be an issue, per Business Insider. Local union leaders, however, are taking issue with this. "I've been involved in the meatpacking plants for probably 30 years and there [are] absolutely undocumented workers working in all the plants," UFCW Local 293 chief Eric Reeder tells WOWT, calling Ricketts' statement "patently false."

Per Migration Policy Institute estimates, immigrants make up 66% of Nebraska's meatpacking workforce, with at least 14% being undocumented. And with more than 5,200 Nebraska meatpacking workers who've already contracted the virus, including 22 deaths, medical experts say it's necessary to vaccinate all of the workers. "Even if someone is undocumented, if they get sick, they [infect] someone else, they can come into the hospital and use a large amount of resources," Dr. Mark Rupp tells WOWT. Reeder agrees, saying it's not political. "If you want to keep them working, you have to keep them as safe as possible," he says. Meanwhile, Fox News reports that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was even more blunt about Ricketts' remarks. "Imagine being so racist that you go out of your way to ensure that the people who prepare *your* food are unvaccinated," she tweeted Tuesday. (More Pete Ricketts stories.)

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