When I learned that the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis was holding a hearing named “How the Meatpacking Industry Failed the Workers Who Feed America,” I thought it might be worth checking out the livestream.

I read that one of the witnesses scheduled to testify before that subcommittee was Magaly Licolli, the co-founder and executive director of Vencernemos, which represents the rights of Arkansas poultry plant workers. I thought what she had to say might also be of interest.

Others on the witness list included representatives of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, the United Food and Commercial Workers and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska.

However, the best way to summarize watching the hearing, held on October 27, is this: It was one hour of my life that I’ll never get back.

Bias on display before witnesses spoke

I guess I should have been suspicious of the worthiness of this hearing based on its name alone. Whoever named the hearing already made up his or her mind that the meatpacking industry failed its workers, or they wouldn’t have named it as such.

Subcommittee Chairman James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, kicked off the hearing, and in his opening remarks, essentially blamed the spread of COVID-19 among meat and poultry plant workers on the inaction of the previous presidential administration, which incidentally was a Republican administration.

Then came Ranking Member Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana. Scalise made no mention of meat and poultry plants, but rather rambled on about the origins of COVID-19 and its entry into the U.S. and why that should be the topic of conversation. In other words, he continued to push his party’s “blame China” mentality.

Were the witnesses really heard?

I did find the testimony of Licolli and the other three witnesses interesting. They said some scathing things about some of the leading meat and poultry companies, specifically mentioning Tyson Foods, JBS, Cargill, Smithfield Foods, George’s, Simmons Foods and Seaboard Foods. Exactly how accurate those allegations are, I don’t know, but each witness did swear to be honest.

But part of me wonders if it really mattered what the witnesses said in their testimonies. They could have joined together and sang in a karaoke barbershop quartet and it would have had the same effect. The comments made by most subcommittee members were proof of that.

The Democrats on the subcommittee were mostly only interested in pushing the Democrat narrative, and the Republicans were mostly only interested in pushing the Republican narrative. There seemed to be little interest in actually listening to what these people had to say.

A few bright spots

However, I will give credit to two members of the subcommittee: Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, and Rep. Bill Foster, D-Illinois.

Miller-Meeks gave a detailed summary of the protective measures put in place at a JBS plant in her district that she visited. At least she did her homework and didn’t gaslight. She also asked insightful questions about depopulation of herds/flocks or farmer suicides.

Meanwhile, Foster, offered rebuttal of the Republican’s assertations about the origins of COVID-19 by referencing “rational discussions we have of this issue on the science committee investigations and oversight subcommittee of which he chairs. He also praised that subcommittee’s ranking member, Jay Obernolte, R-California, who he described as a “an example of a thoughtful and deliberate and fact-based member, that has become unfortunately and increasingly rare.” A politician who favors sense over party politics? How about that?

But sadly, even Miller-Meeks and Foster couldn’t escape partisan thinking, which is a true shame.

If the industry or government agencies really did a disservice to meat and poultry plant workers during the height of the pandemic, policymakers need to know. But in order for them to know, they need to be open minded and willing to cast their political views aside. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening.