Tyson Foods’ new entry into the Worst Employer In the World Award contest is making an impressive showing:
A recently-filed wrongful death lawsuit relating to an Iowa pork processing plant alleges that during the initial stages the pandemic, Tyson Foods ordered employees to report for work while supervisors privately wagered money on the number of workers who would be sickened by the deadly virus. One of those workers, Isidro Fernandez, died from COVID-19. Fernandez’s family has now sued the meatpacking company, alleging Tyson Foods is guilty of a “willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety.”
The lawsuit, which was recently amended, contains a number of specific allegations, including that an upper-level manager at the plant explicitly directed supervisors to ignore symptoms of COVID-19, telling them to show up to work even if they were exhibiting symptoms of the virus while supervisors allegedly falsely denied the existence of any confirmed cases or positive tests for COVID-19 within the plant. Meanwhile it is alleged that Tyson executives allegedly lobbied Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for COVID-19 liability protections that would shield the company from lawsuits.
You can download a copy of the lawsuit Complaint here.
One might ask where is the Occupational Health and Safety Administration in all this? Isn’t OSHA supposed to be protecting American workers? Well, as these headlines indicate, OSHA is a weak agency that does little to curb employer abuses like the ones alleged against Tyson:
OSHA Inspectors Are Key to Re-Opening. Their Ranks Are at a 45-Year Low
Protecting Workers From Coronavirus: OSHA Leaves It to Employers
Sadly, much of the country is learning what employment rights attorneys have known for years: OSHA is toothless. Employers are simply not afraid of an OSHA investigation. Even in cases involving gross negligence and death, their fines are minimal and usually get negotiated down even further by the company after issuance.
And despite this, many workers will continue to vote for “lower regulations” (code for fewer worker protections) because they have been told that if they don’t their jobs will go elsewhere. It isn’t true. American worker safety reforms are long overdue.