One of the country’s largest Latino organizations is calling for a boycott of processed meat, due to outbreaks of the coronavirus at meat packing plants. The League of United Latin American Citizens — also known as LULAC — is calling on consumers to join their “Meatless May” campaign.

“This is again the time for people in America to speak up…for safety and health procedures for these workers,” says Joe Henry, a Des Moines area leader in LULAC, “to make sure that we have justice in the workplace.”

Henry and other advocates say in addition to COVID-19 testing for all employees at food processing plants, the corporate owners of the plants should provide paid sick leave and slow down production lines so workers can stand farther apart.

State officials announced yesterday that 1653 employees at four meat packing plants in Columbus Junction, Tama, Waterloo and Perry have tested positive for COVID-19. Henry says that means the relatives of those workers are at risk of contracting the virus.

“Aunts and uncles in these homes, grandparents are becoming infected and then having to go the hospitals,” Henry says, “and so it’s tragic.”

State officials reported yesterday that for the first time, more than 400 Iowans were hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 and about a quarter of those patients were on ventilators. Fifty-six percent of Iowans who have died of the virus were residents of long term care facilities.

(Reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Kate Payne)