Washington, D.C. — A new report by the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis found that 59,000 workers contracted COVID-19 as it spread through some of the country’s largest meatpacking plants — nearly triple the number of infections previously estimated — with 269 recorded deaths. The report follows an analysis last month from government watchdog Accountable.US spotlighting how  meatpacking giants, including Tyson, Smithfield, and JBS, took advantage of the Trump administration’s lack of oversight by risking their workers’ health during COVID-19.   

“From the safety of their million-dollar homes, meatpacking CEOs made their workers put their own health at risk during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. “The troubling new infection data confirms what many have suspected all along – that industry executives are more interested in their bottom lines and bonuses than providing a safe workplace for their employees. The big meat packers should be held responsible for their reckless management decisions. It leaves the meat industry’s sympathizers in Congress like Mitch McConnell no excuse to continue giving them a free pass while workers suffer due to their greed.”  

Highlights from Accountable.US’ Analysis:  

  • As The Pandemic Accelerated In Early 2020, Smithfield’s Then-CEO Sullivan Claimed The Company Could Not Afford To Take Days Off, Telling Employees: “Most Of Our Team Members Work Side-By-Side On Production Lines In Our Facilities. We Can’t Stay Home, We Can’t Telecommute.” [News Channel Nebraska Central, 04/17/20]
  • One Former Smithfield Worker Claimed That‘”If You’re Not In A Casket, They Want You There'” Because “All They Were Worried About Was Making Sure We Were Coming To Work.‘” “‘If you’re not in a casket, they want you there, said Sonja Johnson, a former Smithfield worker at a packaging and distribution facility. All they were worried about was making sure we were coming to work.‘”  [Washington Post, 04/25/20]
  • Pilgrim’s Pride Praised Trump’s Order To Keep Meatpacking Plants Open As A Consistent And Sound Guidance For Companies—Meanwhile, A Local UFCW President Representing 3,000 JBS Plant Workers Said The Order Ensured “‘More Workers Get Sick, Jeopardizing Lives.'” 
  • April 2, 2020: The Greeley Tribune Reported That Families Of JBS Employees Alleged The Company Had Not Properly Responded To COVID-19 Cases Within Its Plant. “Several family members of employees of JBS, which employs more than 4,500 people, reached out independently to the Greeley Tribune this week raising serious concerns about the plant’s procedures in regard to the new coronavirus pandemic. […] The allegations suggest employees testing positive for COVID-19 have not triggered appropriate responses inside the plant to limit further exposure and contagion.” [Greeley Tribune, 04/02/20]
  • In 2020, After Horrific COVID-19 Outbreaks At National Beef Facilities, National Beef’s Leadership Denied Union And CDC Requests To Change Its Policies—Three Workers Died, Including One Who Was Told To Continue Working Despite Exposure To Sick Co-Workers.
  • On May 4, Tyson President Dean Banks “Told Investors On An Earning Call That Exports To China ‘Were Up Significantly’ During In 2020, Adding That ‘We Expect Strong Demand To Continue.'” “Just a week later, on May 4, Tyson president Dean Banks told investors on an earnings call that exports to China ‘were up significantly’ during in 2020, adding that ‘we expect strong demand to continue as China recovers from this COVID-19 lock-down.'” [Mother Jones, 05/13/20]
  • May 6, 2020: A Tyson Pork-Processing Plant In Iowa Was Reported To Have 730 Cases of COVID-19 Out Of Approximately 1250 Employees — Nearly 60 Percent. “Nearly 60 percent of employees at the Tyson Fresh Meats pork plant in Perry, Iowa, have tested positive for coronavirus, making it one of the hardest-hit meat plants in the U.S. Out of the approximately 1250 employees at Perry, 730 people contracted the virus, the Iowa Department of Health said.” [Fox Business, 05/06/20]

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