WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Tyson Foods Inc. announced that it would close an Iowa pork plant after at least 550 workers — 22% of the plant’s workers — contracted COVID-19. The news follows reports this week from CNN that Iowa has been slow to respond to workers’ complaints at another Tyson facility. According to internal records obtained by Accountable.US, after workers complained of close, unsafe working conditions that put them at heightened risk of getting sick, the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reportedly delayed communication with the Tyson facility and ultimately failed to inspect it.
Tyson’s workforce across the nation has fallen victim to the coronavirus at an explosive rate, with at least 7,000 workers reportedly sick after just 1,600 a month ago, according to the Washington Post. Meatpackers have cited lack of proper PPE, being told to come in for shifts even when they exhibited symptoms of COVID-19, and inadequate enforcement of social distancing as factors putting them at risk in their work environments.
According to a top OSHA official, the agency has only issued one COVID-19 citation under an existing standard since the crisis started.
“OSHA should be working overtime during this crisis to ensure that essential workers’ lives are being protected,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. “Instead, citations and inspections have plummeted, leaving vulnerable workers to fend for themselves as they come into an unsafe workplace to make a paycheck and food on the table for their families.”