Tyson Foods removes plant management in Waterloo, Iowa

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 837 views 

Tyson Foods said Wednesday (Dec. 16) an independent investigation into the wagering allegations at its pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, has led to the firing of seven management employees who were placed on suspension last month.

Tyson Foods suspended top plant leadership without pay after allegations they made light of the COVID-19 pandemic by operating a betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many plant employees would test positive.

“We value our people and expect everyone on the team, especially our leaders, to operate with integrity and care in everything we do,” said Tyson Foods President & CEO Dean Banks. “The behaviors exhibited by these individuals do not represent the Tyson core values, which is why we took immediate and appropriate action to get to the truth. Now that the investigation has concluded, we are taking action based on the findings.”

Banks said upon learning of the allegations, he and others immediately traveled to Waterloo in November and again Wednesday to meet with plant employees and community leaders to reinforce Tyson’s commitment to them. He said Tyson is opening more communication channels to hear from employees and creating a working group of local community leaders to strengthen collaboration all while reinforcing the importance of Tyson’s published core values and employee mission.

“The commitment and passion that our team members exhibit every day is core to who we are at Tyson. We were very upset to learn of the behaviors found in the allegations, as we expect our leaders to treat all team members with the highest levels of respect and integrity,” said Banks. “That’s why we have asked former Attorney General Eric Holder and his team to partner with Tyson to help us as we continue to look for ways to enhance a trusting and respectful workplace.”

Tyson was also hit with another lawsuit in Iowa from the family of Michale Everhard, an employee who died in June after contracting COVID-19. This is the fifth lawsuit against Tyson in recent months relating to COVID-19 deaths among its workforce in Iowa. The Everhard suit accuses Tyson Foods of failing to maintain social distancing between employees and inadequately training workers and cleaning work areas in response to the spread of COVID-19 in the Storm Lake, Iowa fresh meats plant.

Tyson Foods released the following statement regarding this latest suit: “We’re saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member and sympathize with their families. Our top priority is the health and safety of our workers and we’ve implemented a host of protective measures at our facilities that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing COVID-19.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union issued the following statement on Nov. 23 about the Tyson workplace allegations.

“America’s meatpacking workers are dying on the frontlines of this pandemic, putting themselves in harm’s way to ensure our families can put food on the table this Thanksgiving. This shocking report of supervisors allegedly taking bets on how many workers would get infected, pressuring sick workers to stay on the job, and failing to enforce basic safety standards, should outrage every American.

“These stunning safety failures make clear that the Trump Administration and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds care more about industry profits than protecting America’s frontline workers. Protecting our country’s meatpacking workers is essential to keeping our food supply secure. We are continuing to call on elected leaders to implement an enforceable national safety standard, increased access to PPE and COVID-19 testing, and rigorous proactive inspections. 

“Without immediate action, deadly outbreaks like this will quickly spread across the Midwest and cause COVID-19 cases to spike even higher. Our country’s meatpacking workers, and the millions of American they serve, deserve and expect better from those sworn to protect us.”