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As Congress and presidential candidates trade accusations over immigration reform, advocates and experts urge caution in spreading misinformation; Alabama takes new action IVF policy following controversial court decision; and central states urge caution with wildfires brewing.

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Congress reaches a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown again. Arizona Republicans want to ensure Trump remains on their state ballot and Senate Democrats reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

MN Looks to Update Worker-Rights Law for Meatpacking Industry

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Tuesday, March 28, 2023   

The meat processing industry continues to face scrutiny over labor practices in states like Minnesota. Proposed legislation would update a 2007 law, calling on companies to provide more disclosure to those they hire about their rights. The measure cleared a House committee this week and has new language about providing information on matters such as workers' compensation requirements.

There are also updated standards for providing details in multiple languages with many of these plants hiring migrant workers.

Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South Saint Paul and the bill's sponsor, referenced to working conditions at various plants at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"And while the packing houses may have survived and thrived and made great profit, some of the workers did not, " he said.

A Republican committee member raised opposition to the plan, which includes increases in fines, and said it comes down hard on job creators. But Democrats countered that some companies within the industry have recently been accused of child labor violations. That includes Packers Sanitation Services, which just paid a $1.5-million fine in a case with Minnesota ties.

Rep. Aisha Gomez, DFL-Minneapolis, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said anyone concerned about the bill should research images from the JBS plant in Worthington at the start of the pandemic.

"There was no way to ensure the safety of these workers at the point, and yet, there they were - side by side with each other - no personal protective equipment, " she said.

The company, along with other big meat processing firms, came under federal officials' microscope over COVID outbreaks and deaths linked to their facilities. For its part, JBS noted it made substantial updates to protect workers as the pandemic continued. Meanwhile, there is a separate Minnesota bill this session that specifically addresses workplace safety at larger plants.


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House Bill passed with an overwhelming vote of 94-6, with three abstentions. Its companion, Senate Bill 159, passed unanimously with a vote of 34-0. (Chad Robertson/Adobe Stock)

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