In the earliest stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the top brass at Tyson Foods assured the country they were taking the pandemic seriously.
They claimed they were concerned about food and worker safety.
But were they?
New reports suggest profits mattered – but worker health and safety?
Not so much.
In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Iowa, the family of a deceased Tyson worker alleges managers at an Iowa plant organized and participated in a betting pool on how many employees would become ill with COVID-19.
The suit alleges “fraudulent misrepresentations, gross negligence, and incorrigible, willful and wanton disregard for worker safety at its pork processing facility in Waterloo, Iowa.”
Last year Tyson Foods reported $42 billion in sales. The Tyson family privately holds the company and they are one of the wealthiest in the United States.
As the pandemic spread through food processing plants across America, top management at Tyson instructed plant supervisors to falsely deny the existence of “confirmed cases” or “positive tests.”
The lawsuit alleges plant supervisors also continued to brazenly move workers from plant to plant even after some of those workers tested positive for COVID.
From March – mid-April, the Tyson family refused to close the Waterloo plant despite urgent pleas from county officials. One such official said a visit to the plant during this time was so disturbing it “shook him to the core.”
“Around this time, defendant Tom Hart, the plant manager of the Waterloo facility, organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for COVID-19,” the lawsuit states.
While all of this was going on, workers at the plant reported they were not provided with personal protective gear and that social distancing guidelines were being ignored.
“At least one worker at the facility vomited on the production line, and management allowed him to continue working and return to work the next day,” lawyers for the family stated.
In an equally disturbing side note, the Tyson Family was lobbying the White House for special legal protections from worker lawsuits while also successfully lobbying Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds for an executive order that stripped local government officials of their legal authority to close businesses during the crisis.
Our question is simple. What part of the $42 billion dollars the Tyson Family made in 2019 wasn’t enough?
If this family’s allegation against the company are proven in court, the Tyson family has many questions to answer…
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