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Tragedy in the Meatpacking Industry During a Global Pandemic

Tyson Foods is conducting significant investigations at its Waterloo, Iowa pork production facility, which processes over 19,500 hogs each day. A lawsuit has been filed against the company by the son of a plant worker who died in April from COVID-19. The plant worker, Isidro Fernandez, got sick as a result of his job with Tyson. The lawsuit claims that plant managers encouraged workers to remain on the job even if exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Sick workers were encouraged to work alongside healthy workers. The meatpacking industry has been broadly affected by the pandemic including shutdowns of not just Tyson, but Smithfield Foods and JBS facilities. COVID-19 affected over 1,000 employees out of around 2,800 with 5 deaths according to the lawsuit. The plant was shut down in late April. Additionally, Tyson misled employees about the seriousness of the pandemic.

The lawsuit alleges that in early April, manager Tom Hart "organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for COVID-19." When Tyson heard the concerns, they suspended the accused employees and started an independent investigation with the oversight of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. In Tyson's communications they stated, "If these disturbing claims are confirmed, we'll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behavior from our company."


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