Saint Louis University Journal of Health Law & Policy

Document Type

Symposium Article


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated existing health injustices. People who are Latino/Latinx, Black, Indigenous or members of other minority groups have disproportionately paid with their very lives. The pandemic has also exposed the complex interdependence of worker health and well-being, community health, and economic security. Industries like meat processing facilities—with congregate and high-density workplaces staffed by workers who are already disadvantaged by structural discrimination—must reckon with decades of subrogation and exploitation of workers. During this pandemic, the industry has pushed that exploitation to a point of no return. Policies to protect workers need a reset to an orientation of solidarity, mutual respect, justice, and equity. It is time for the industry that has so often profited at the expense of worker safety to sacrifice their fair share. The ethical underpinnings here are applicable to other workers’ who have been relegated to the sidelines in other essential industries, such as agriculture, retail and public service, and long-term care. Making ethical decisions about workplace protections should account for those heightened risks and existing disadvantages and legal intervention may be necessary to reinforce ethical minimums.