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Gov. Ricketts Scapegoats Immigrant Workers for Viral Spread

Since Nebraska started seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases in rural communities, the governor has been shamelessly scapegoating our immigrant population, from blaming the outbreaks on a Quinceañera that occurred the same night as his friend Julie Slama’s state basketball party, to his latest suggestion at his press conferences that those who do not have English as their first language are somehow confused or bringing this on themselves.

Nebraska, despite what our governor says, the reason we are having COVID outbreaks in meat packing is NOT because the workers can’t speak English.

Employees in food processing plants are particularly vulnerable to the virus because it’s nearly impossible to physically distance in a plant and they are deemed essential workers. Not because they don’t understand. Not because they are stupid. Not because they don’t wash their hands.

First of all, everyone who works in public health already knows that information should always be provided in language and subject to cultural review. The CDC has an entire guide devoted to it. If this last week was the first time coronavirus information was available to community members in language, that is a government fail, not an employee fail.

Second, it’s not people without English as a first language waving AR15s begging to be “allowed” to spread the virus. It’s not people without English as a first language flocking to GA and FL beaches. It’s not people without English as a first language tweeting to “liberate” states. Those are white people.

When asked what he’s doing about the obvious issues in our food processing industry, the governor has consistently said he is having weekly call with the management and encouraging them to practice physical distancing. He will not mandate anything, but is encouraging “collaboration.” Workers who are actually on the front lines have not been invited to any of these meetings.

Is it a coincidence that those he is working in collaboration with have donated to his campaign, including Tyson Foods, Smithfield, et. al.? I guess it’s not just shopping malls and top docs who pay-to-play in Nebraska.
The governor really needs to quit pushing the racist talking point that it’s the “other” who are creating a problem. They may not have English as a first languange, are going to work and literally putting their lives on the line trying to feed their families (and yours!).

But their bosses, who very likely DO have English as their first language, are failing to provide safe working conditions. And the governor isn’t requiring it.