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Farms and Orchards File Lawsuits Fighting Michigan’s COVID-19 Executive Orders

One federal lawsuit claims that mandatory testing of farm workers violates employees’ civil rights

A cherry orchard in Old Mission Peninsula. Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Farmers fight law requiring workers get tested for COVID-19

A new executive order mandating COVID-19 testing for all farm workers is already facing backlash. The order, designed to help curbed outbreaks among workers at farms and food processing facilities in Michigan, was issued on Monday, August 3. The federal lawsuit filed by attorneys for the Michigan Farm Bureau argues that the mandatory testing violates workers’ civil rights because it targets the Latino community, according to MLive.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, August 12, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) called the lawsuit “meritless” and “an unfortunate use of valuable time in a difficult period.” MDHHS adds that “the order applies regardless of race” and notes that in the last week the number of COVID-19 outbreaks tied to farms, food processing, and migrant camps in Michigan has nearly doubled to 21. MDHHS is currently covering the costs of testing and offering housing and other supports to help both workers and their employers.

Northern Michigan orchard files lawsuit after defying COVID-19 safety orders

A northern Michigan orchard has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the Court of Claims, according to MLive. The lawsuit states that Friske Orchard Farm Market near Charlevoix was served with an order on Saturday, August 1 threatening to suspend its business license because the orchard hasn’t complied with state face covering requirements. The order stated that Friske is “an imminent danger to the health and lives of the public.” However, Friske’s owners argue that state executive orders requiring businesses to implement COVID-19 safety precautions, such as requiring staff and customers to wear masks, are illegal and being unlawfully enforced because the state legislature has not extended the state of emergency. The lawsuit claims that the curve in Michigan has been flattened, despite statements by the state’s chief health executive Joneigh Khaldun that Michigan had hit a “plateau” in cases.

Macomb County restaurant owners charged with tax fraud

The owners of Korean-Japanese restaurant Chung Ki Wa in Sterling Heights have been charged filing false tax returns and possessing an automated sales suppression device called a “zapper,” according to the state attorney general’s office. Ki Yon Ahn and Seo Jong Yoo were arraigned on felony charges July 21. Zappers are a device that allows businesses to manipulate their POS systems and misrepresent their sales to avoid paying taxes. A Department of Treasury analysis found that Chung Ki Wa’s proprietors had failed to pay $165,000 in sales tax since 2013.

PFAS food packaging faces new regulations in Michigan

PFAS, a toxic chemical that’s contaminated groundwater in some parts of Michigan, could face new regulations for food packaging. State Senator Jeff Irwin, a Democrat representing Ann Arbor, tells NPR that he plans to introduce a proposal stopping restaurants from using packaging treated with PFAS. The ban would likely impact major chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King. Irwin cited research from the Ecology Center that found traces of PFAS in chain packaging.

Grocery store lawsuit

Local grocer Nino Salvaggio’s has filed a lawsuit against Beaumont Health, claiming the medical facility broke an agreement that would have made Nino Salvaggio’s the primary tenant at the Woodward Corners development, according to Deadline Detroit. Instead, Meijer was made the main tenant at the Royal Oak development near the hospital. The grocery store claims that it invested $1 million to develop the new location, but later learned in a press release that Meijer would be taking over the address. In a statement to Deadline, a representative for Beaumont called the lawsuit “frivolous.”

Getting out of the restaurant business

With fewer, safe jobs during the pandemic, less opportunity to make money in the restaurant industry, and more time to think about their lives, some Detroit industry veterans are looking for a career change, the Detroit Free Press reports.

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