Families, union members pay tribute to JBS meatpacking plant employees in Greeley

GREELEY, Colo. (KDVR) — Families and UFCW 7 union members gathered in Greeley Sunday to pay tribute to JBS meatpacking plant employees who died with COVID-19.

According to the state, seven plant workers and one JBS corporate employee died from the virus.

UFCW Local 7 memorialized six union members that died from COVID-19: Saul Longoria Sanchez, Tibursio Rivera López, Eduardo Conchas de la Cruz, Way Ler, Daniel Avila Loma and Tin Aye.

The memorial started with an emotional service, then a caravan to view two billboards with each union members’ face printed on them along with a picture memorial set up outside of the plant.

“This is very hard for me,” grieving daughter Patty Rangel said.

Rangel’s father, Saul Longoria Sanchez, was the first JBS employee to pass away with the virus.

“I’m a registered nurse, and I was there the day we had to shut the vent off my father and many of your family members. My heart goes out to all of you,” Rangel said.

“I never thought mom would pass away so soon after I gave birth to my son, it is pretty hard,” grieving daughter San Twin said as she wiped tears from her eyes.

Twin’s mother Tin Aye was admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 a day after her first grandson Felix was born. She never got to meet him.

“I wish she could see my son, even in a picture,” Twin said.

Seeing Aye’s picture on the memorial in front of the plant her mother devoted 12 years to working at was especially hard for Twin.

“My mom came to work at JBS so me and my brother could finish school and I could finish college,” she said.

Loved ones, their union and even state representatives who attended the memorial say they never want these employee’s sacrifices to be forgotten.

“I’m heartbroken at the death and illness we see from irresponsible corporate behavior and it’s time to change,” State Treasurer Dave Young said.

FOX 31 reached out to JBS Sunday. A communications representative shared the following statement:

“We support the tribute to the tragic loss of our team members by our local union. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have suffered during this pandemic, including those of the 1,674 Coloradans who have lost their lives. At JBS, our team members are family. Over the last five months, COVID-19 has taken six of our Greeley beef team members, each of whom was beloved by their work family. We mourn their loss every day, and we grieve alongside the community, and most importantly, the families they leave behind.

As cases rise in many states across America, we all must continue to take the threat of coronavirus seriously. We have done everything we can to protect our team members while they are at work, implementing actions before receiving official guidance or direction in many instances. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment conducted a surprise inspection at the Greeley facility last week, offering no suggested improvements to or criticisms of our current protocols. We agree with the union that the enhanced safety measures we have put in place must remain for the long term to protect our workforce as coronavirus continues to spread in our country.

We also believe we must face this shared threat together, recognizing that no one has all the answers but that we can defeat the virus with compassion, humility and partnership.”