For immediate release
November 16, 2021
Workers and union ask government to investigate occupational hazards as new data reveal higher-than-average injury rates
Workers at HelloFresh have alerted government agencies and are calling for investigations of higher-than-average injury rates at America’s #1 meal kit company’s Richmond CA and Aurora CO factories. As online food ordering exploded during COVID, HelloFresh doubled its U.S. revenues in 2020 – but the workers who prep, assemble, and ship these meal kits say they are under constant pressure to meet production targets. Workers at a HelloFresh factory near Oakland, CA are calling on California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration office (Cal/OSHA) to inspect numerous alleged occupational hazards, while UNITE HERE has requested that federal OSHA investigate whether HelloFresh appropriately reported an industrial accident in which a pallet of boxes fell on four workers, sending two to the hospital, at its factory near Denver, CO.
“I’ll never forget the look on my coworkers’ face when a pallet stacked with boxes fell on her foot. It was so heavy that I couldn’t lift it off, and I just remember screaming for help while I watched her face go red,” said Tony Guzman, team lead in the Kitting Department at the HelloFresh facility in Richmond. “My coworkers and I are ready to vote yes for our union because we shouldn’t be risking our bodies just to work at HelloFresh.”
The incidence rate of OSHA recordable injuries and illnesses at HelloFresh’s Richmond, CA factory in 2020 was 12.96 per 100 workers, which is 3.24 times the rate for the transportation and warehousing industry and 1.8 times the rate for perishable prepared food manufacturing. It’s also 4.8 times the incidence rate for private industry as a whole. OSHA logs for HelloFresh’s factory in Aurora, CO reveal a 2020 injury and illness rate of 5.72 incidents per 100 workers, which is above the transportation and warehousing and private industry rates, but lower than the perishable prepared food manufacturing rate.
Injuries that HelloFresh workers at these locations suffered since 2020 included “crushing of multiple upper extremities,” “head, laceration, struck by failing object,” and “foot punctured by nail.” Workers have since communicated with OSHA to detail additional alleged occupational hazards including: “working and walking areas cluttered with tripping hazards,” “risk of injury from falling objects,” and “risk of injury from lifting heavy items and repetitive motions.”
Cal/OSHA cited and fined HelloFresh’s Richmond facility $8,435 in April 2021 after an inspection found that the company had allegedly violated COVID-19 prevention rules related to masking, physical distancing, and more. The company has contested the citation and has not yet paid the $8,435 fine. HelloFresh Richmond was the site of a 2020 workplace COVID outbreak that led to 171 documented cases and one death.
“The safety conditions at HelloFresh demand attention,” said D. Taylor, International President of UNITE HERE. “HelloFresh customers probably have no idea the hazards that workers face in preparing the meal kits that appear on customers’ doorsteps. COVID turbocharged the shift towards online ordering and made a lot of food preparation jobs more invisible. We’re not going to let HelloFresh take us back to the 19th century when workers toiled behind closed doors in dreadful conditions.”
Cal/OSHA has launched a written inquiry in response to HelloFresh workers’ letter, while OSHA’s Denver regional office is expected to take next steps soon. Approx. 400 meal kit workers at HelloFresh’s facility in Aurora began voting on October 28 on whether to join UNITE HERE, and another 770 workers in Richmond will begin voting on the same question on November 18. If successful, they will form the booming meal kit industry’s first-ever union. HelloFresh has been endorsed by Mindy Kaling of The Office and The Mindy Show and Antoni Porowski of Netflix’s Queer Eye.