Perdue Farms employee speaks out after co-worker tests positive for COVID-19

Published: Apr. 25, 2020 at 7:01 PM EDT
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After workers at the Perdue Farms chicken plant protested and stayed off the job on Wednesday because a fellow employee tested positive for COVID-19, one of those employees is speaking out about their concerns.

Markeith Staten has been working at the Perdue Farms plant in Lewiston-Woodville for over 6 months and he says he and follow employees believe the conditions at the plant are unsafe now that someone has tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Only 12 people can go to my uncle funeral, but I can go to work with 1,700 people here," says Staten, who explains he had to miss his late uncle's funeral service because of social distancing guidelines.

On Wednesday, county health officials confirmed that an employee at the Bertie County plant had tested positive for COVID-19.

Multiple employees told WITN they didn't go to work because of the case-- an action Staten says they were punished for.

"They gave them points for not coming in. Basically that's like trying to get you out the door," Staten explained.

The county says Perdue took extraordinary measures several weeks ago to prevent cases within their plant, but Staten says it's nearly impossible to be socially distant while at work.

"Everybody got to stand in line in the cafeteria and everybody got to stand in line when walking to your department," Staten added.

Perdue says it has given hourly workers a $1 per hour pay raise, but Staten says the minimal increase doesn't compare to the value of their lives.

"They give us a dollar raise like that's suppose to be like our value of life. But their taking that raise away in two weeks," says Staten. "No bonus is going to stop us from getting the coronavirus," he added.

Explaining if the plant were to close he thinks people would understand.

"These people are not going to go crazy because chicken is not in the grocery store for two weeks," Staten says.

Perdue says in addition to the hourly workers $1 pay raise, piece rate employees like truck drivers have received $40 per week pay increase through May 10th.