OUR LETTER TO MILWAUKEE MAYOR TOM BARRETT

Read our May 14 letter to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as we reach out to state and local officials to seek collaboration with public health departments working with food manufacturing facilities with positive COVID-19 cases.


May 14, 2020
 
The Honorable Tom Barrett
Mayor, City of Milwaukee
City Hall
200 E. Wells St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
 
Dear Mayor Barrett:
 
I am writing on behalf of FaB Wisconsin to express concerns over the recent shutdown of two of Milwaukee's food manufacturing facilities in the Menomonee River Valley and to offer some thoughts on best management practices from an industry perspective on how public health concerns in our industry might be more constructively handled by the City going forward.
 
FaB offers these thoughts in a spirit of partnership and our desire to work together with the City as we jointly take steps to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and help protect workers and ensure a reliable and nutritious food supply to the community. 
 
From the farm to the factory to fork, Wisconsin's food and beverage industry accounts for about 20,000 jobs and generates more than $104 billion in economic activity. Our farms and factories have continued to feed and supply the world during the past 120 years, when that iconic Milwaukee poster first appeared in 1898. Today, FaB works with nearly 150 food and beverage manufacturers and makers ranging in size from 1-1,000+ employees. Our food and beverage manufacturers have demonstrated leadership in adopting best practices to help ensure the safety of their work force, and these people are true heroes as they work the supply and production lines to help ensure the public has food to eat.
 
While healthcare already had protocols in place when the pandemic began, the food and beverage industry acted quickly and aggressively to elevate their already high sanitary and worker protection standards to be able to continue to produce a safe food supply while safeguarding their people.
 
Food and beverage companies are adopting best practices that go above the CDC, FDA, USDA, and local public health department guidelines, and they have developed mitigation plans that include:
 
  • Regular temperature checks, sometimes twice daily
  • Cyclical testing of all workers as it has become more available
  • Social distancing and physical barriers in production areas, break rooms, and locker rooms
  • Face masks, face shields, gloves, and protective clothing
  • Stringent sanitation practices
  • Staggered shifts and breaks
  • More culturally-appropriate communication efforts to reach an incredibly diverse workforce
  • Quarantine and contact tracing protocols if and when positives occur
Yet, even with all these measures in place, employees go home every day and come back the next. What interactions they have outside of work is one of the biggest challenges our food and beverage manufacturers face. This challenge is going to become more critical as Safer at Home orders are relaxed and the general public goes out and about and into establishments not using these same best practices.
 
FaB recommends, rather than a forced shut down as the course of action against a food and beverage manufacturer that has two employees identified as positive for COVID-19, that businesses be judged on the totality of the safety measures they have put in place to protect their workplace heroes - the people who continue to work to provide us with wholesome food and beverages.
 
FaB held a CEO Briefing this week on the best practices of the industry in the era of COVID-19, and more than 50 industry leaders attended. Our featured guest speaker spoke passionately using words that resonated with us all, and I hope they will help convey to you this message: "One Team. One Fight."
 
Let's work together to meet this challenge and not so severely penalize and reprove those working hard and instilling the best of practices. While we can recognize that there are individuals and other establishments that are more relaxed in their approach to battling COVID-19, the FaB members are using their best practices and doing more to protect their workers and the public's food supply. Let's find the best and safest ways to recognize that.
 
FaB stands ready, willing, and able to work with you and your administration on the COVID-19 challenge and related issues.
 
Respectfully,

SHELLEY JUREWICZ
Executive Director, FaB Wisconsin 
m. 414.331.0598 | o. 414.287.4143
e. [email protected]
756 N. Milwaukee St., Suite 400
Milwaukee, WI 53202
 

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