Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice, Patience Roggensack, widely criticized for statement implying that meat-packers are not among Brown County’s, “regular folks”


Ken Lund (Flickr)

Brown County Courthouse, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Ivana Venema-Nunez, Reporter

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack’s statement made after Governor Tony Evers pointed out how fast the coronavirus has spread in Brown County Wisconsin has been met with backlash from various members of local unions and lawmakers calling it “embarrassing”.

The JBS Packerland meatpacking plant is located in Brown County and their cases went from about 60 to almost 800 in a span of two weeks, and Roggensack interjected stating, “These were due to the meatpacking, though,” she said. “That’s where Brown County got the flare. It wasn’t just the regular folks in Brown County.”

Objections began to surface on social media where some “folks” from Wisconsin asked on sites like Twitter: “What kind of folks are they then?”

Roggensack’s statement appeared to draw a line between meatpacking workers and “regular folks” according to an article from The Washington Post.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett stated to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he was “shocked” by her comments and Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D) said it was “embarrassing” for the state that a high court justice would make such a “classless” remark.

President of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, Rick Esenberg, defended Roggensack, pointing out that she was probably observing the spike was caused by the meatpacking plant.

Claire Paprocki, spokeswoman for the health department said during the county’s daily briefing, “It’s extremely important to note that Covid-19 is not an industry-specific issue, nor is one facility in Brown County to blame for the outbreak.

The continued focus on one industry does not provide the public with an accurate representation of what is occurring in our community.

Community spreading is the issue.

Roggensack did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment late Wednesday night according to the same Washington Post article.

The local union that represents 5,000 meat workers in the state of Wisconsin, The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1473, made a statement Wednesday calling Roggensack’s statements “deeply offensive and deeply out of touch with regular folks.”

Voices de la Frontera Director, Christine Neumann-Ortiz told WISN that she considers Roggensack’s statement racist because many meatpacking workers are black and brown and her statement suggests that those workers’ lives were “less worthy” than the lives of others.

Paprocki also said on Wednesday that meatpacking plant workers make up 39 percent of the county’s 1,635 confirmed cases.

Meatpacking workers have emerged as some of the most vulnerable during the pandemic. Tyson Foods facilities in Iowa to JBS plant in Greeley, Colo. have been hit especially hard making some plants temporarily closed to focus on health precautions.

JBS Packerland reopened Tuesday after being temporarily closed on April 26.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the extent of the outbreak in JBS meatpacking plant since Brown County’s coronavirus cases grew 1,000 percent in about one week in mid-April, according to the article.