Socially Distanced Rally Supports Accomack County Poultry Plant Workers

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Felicia Matthews holds a sign during a rally held in Accomac Monday, April 27, 2020, to show support for poultry processing facility workers on the Eastern Shore of Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

By Carol Vaughn —

People in around three dozen vehicles honked their horns and flashed their headlights for nearly an hour Monday afternoon at a rally across Route 13 from the Perdue Farms processing plant in Accomac, held around the time when day shift workers leave the plant and the night shift comes to work.
The socially distanced rally was held to show support for poultry plant workers at the Eastern Shore’s two facilities, Perdue and Tyson Foods, during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Accomack County deputies and Virginia State Police kept a watchful eye from a distance.
Felicia Matthews said she was at the rally to support the grassroots group Virginia Organizing, the Virginia Legal Justice Center, and Perdue and Tyson employees.
“We would like to see Perdue and Tyson both shut down for two weeks — allow the employees to still be paid, but to show the employees that they do care, and that they do matter, and their lives are more important than a dollar,” she said.
The Rev. David Sabatino, a local pastor and teacher, waved a cloth in the air and honked his car horn to show support for the workers.
“We are just here supporting the poultry workers here in Accomack County. Many of them are our friends and family; they are our church members. I also teach school, so these are the parents of some of my students that are working behind those walls,” Sabatino said, adding, “We are just praying that after the pandemic is over, that they will come along with us — we want them to remain alive — so all we want to do is see the most be done to see that these people are working in a very safe environment.”

The Rev. David Sabatino waves a cloth during a rally held in Accomac Monday, April 27, 2020, to show support for poultry processing facility workers on the Eastern Shore of Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

The Tyson Foods facility in Temperanceville closed Friday for a three-day deep cleaning, and spokespeople from both companies said measures have been put in place to keep workers safe during the pandemic.
The death last week of a woman who worked at Perdue, reportedly from the virus, is heightening workers’ concerns.
The concerns also come amid reports of multiple employees falling ill, and news that the Eastern Shore now has four COVID-19 outbreaks in congregate settings, which includes workplaces, as well as one outbreak in a long-term care facility.
The number of confirmed positive cases on the Eastern Shore of Virginia is on the uptick, with 195 in Accomack County and 28 in Northampton County reported as of Monday, compared to 59 in both counties together just five days ago.
Twenty people on the Shore have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and three have died, according to the Virginia Department of Health, which reported 632 test results received to date for Eastern Shore residents.
A health department official said last week that the outbreaks had been the source of the majority of cases in the health district over the previous five days and accounted for more than half the total cases.
Poultry plant employees make up almost 7% of the Shore population — and nearly 12% of Accomack County’s workforce, according to the county’s latest comprehensive financial report.

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