SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Big meatpacking companies that have struggled to keep plants running during the coronavirus crisis said Wednesday that they welcomed President Donald Trump’s executive order requiring them to stay open, but unions, some employees and Democrats questioned whether workers could be kept safe. Trump used the Defense Production Act to classify meat processors as critical infrastructure to prevent supermarket shelves from running out of chicken, pork and other meat. Meatpacking plants across the country have closed as COVID-19 infections spread rapidly between workers, who often stand shoulder to shoulder on production lines. Trump, who consulted with industry leaders before issuing the order, said it would relieve “bottlenecks” that the largest companies faced after workers fell ill and some died. “They are so thrilled,” Trump said Wednesday after getting off a call with meatpacking executives. “They’re so happy. They’re all gung-ho, and we solved their problems.” The executive order was widely seen as giving processors protection from liability for workers who become sick on the job. It came soon after a lawsuit accused Smithfield Foods of not doing enough to protect employees at its plant in Milan, Missouri. A federal judge in that case ordered Smithfield to follow


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