Managers At A Tyson Pork Plant Placed Bets On How Many Workers Would Get COVID-19, A Lawsuit Alleges
Managers at a Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa, rejected pleas from local officials to temporarily shut down during the pandemic and placed bets on how many workers would end up getting COVID-19, according to a recently filed lawsuit.
The family of Isidro Fernandez, a worker at the plant who died of COVID-19, filed the lawsuit, alleging Tyson Foods downplayed the spread of the coronavirus among its workforce and incentivized employees to come in when they were sick.
"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," the lawsuit states.
Then, as workers were being infected with COVID-19, a plant manager organized a "cash buy-in, winner-take-all" betting pool to see how many workers would end up testing positive for the virus, according to the lawsuit.
The working conditions were so dire at the Waterloo plant, attorneys for Fernandez's family allege a local sheriff said they "shook [him] to the core."
Fernandez, who died on April 20, was one of about 2,800 workers at the facility, which processes more than 19,000 pigs a day, according to the complaint.
The company did eventually shut down operations by April 22 — after all of the hog carcasses from its cooler were processed. But by then, the outbreak had spread through the workforce. Five workers at the plant have so far died, and according to the complaint, the Black Hawk County Health Department has recorded more than 1,000 infections of COVID-19 among Tyson employees.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Fernandez's family earlier this year in state court, but was moved to federal court after Tyson Foods argued the plant had remained open during the pandemic at the request of President Donald Trump to preserve the food supply chain.
这起不当死亡诉讼是费尔南德斯的家人今年早些时候在州法院提起的，但在泰森食品(Tyson Foods)辩称，应唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump)总统的要求，工厂在疫情爆发期间仍然开放，以保护食品供应链后，该诉讼被转移到联邦法院。
The amended lawsuit, which was first reported by the Iowa Capital Dispatch, include allegations that the company disregarded worker safety by not providing adequate safety equipment, making them work on a crowded floor, and incentivized employees with $500 "thank you bonuses" to keep showing up despite being sick.
最早由《爱荷华州资本快报》(Iowa Capital Dispatch)报道的这起修改后的诉讼，包括指控该公司无视工人安全，没有提供足够的安全设备，让他们在拥挤的楼层工作，并以500美元的“感谢奖金”激励员工，让他们在生病的情况下继续露面。
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit, but has said previously that its top priority "is the health and safety of our team members, their families and our communities."
"We take this responsibility very seriously and are doing everything we can," the company said, adding that it has taken steps that meet or exceed federal safety requirements.
In federal court, attorneys for Tyson in previous filings said they dispute the claims, and that managers have "worked from the very beginning of the pandemic to follow federal workplace guidelines and has invested millions of dollars to provide employees with safety and risk-mitigation equipment."
But according to the complaint, the company failed to distribute adequate protection and only started to implement temperature checks of employees on April 6, but even then they did not include truck drivers or subcontractors.
"By late-March or early April, Supervisory Defendants and most managers at the Waterloo Facility started to avoid the plant floor because they were afraid of contracting the virus," the complaint alleges. Instead, managers started delegating duties to "low-level supervisors."
Supervisors also told employees they had a "responsibility" to keep showing up to work "in order to ensure Americans don't go hungry."
After local inspectors visited the plant on April 10, they asked Tyson officials to temporarily shut down so they could implement measures to stop the spread of the virus.
The company refused and, sometime around that time, the lawsuit states the plant manager "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."
By April 12, the suit alleges, two dozen employees were taken to the emergency room of the local hospital.
Supervisors were told to show up to work even when they exhibited symptoms of COVID-19. When one supervisor was leaving work to get tested another manager allegedly told him to go back to work, saying, "we all have symptoms—you have a job to do."
Instead of implementing measures to keep workers home, workers were instead rewarded with $500 "thank you bonuses" when they showed up to work for every shift for three months.