Tyson Foods, one of the largest corporations in the United States, is facing a wrongful death lawsuit after forcing its employees to work in unsafe conditions.
The lawsuit was filed by the family of Isidro Fernandez, a Tyson employee who died after being exposed to the COVID virus while he was working at one of the company’s meat packaging plants.
According to the lawsuit, managers at the meat packaging plant where Fernandez worked were fully aware of the danger that they were putting their employees in. Some managers even took bets on how many employees would be sickened by the virus. Fernandez was one of those employees, and he didn’t make it.
The winner takes all betting pool was organized by plant manager Tom Hart.
The lawsuit alleges Tyson Foods is guilty of a “willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety.”
Fernandez was one of five employees at the same plant in Waterloo, Iowa, that passed away from the virus. According to the Black Hawk County Health Department, more than 1,000 workers at the plant, contracted the virus, which is more than a third of the facility’s workforce.
A wrongful death lawsuit tied to COVID-19 infections at Tyson Foods' largest pork processing plant accuses the meatpacking giant of ordering employees to report for work while supervisors privately bet money on how many would get infected. https://t.co/2vpRy9jERr via @HuffPost
— S. E. Hinton (@se4realhinton) November 19, 2020
The lawsuit says that the company took no precautions for the virus and forced its employees to work long hours in tightly packed conditions without providing any personal protective equipment.
The lawsuit also includes testimonies of witnesses like Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson, who visited the plant and said that the conditions there “shook [him] to the core.”
Upper-level manager John Casey downplayed the severity of the virus, saying that “it’s not a big deal” and “everyone is going to get it.”
In one case, Casey prevented a sick supervisor from getting tested and told him to go back to work, saying, “We all have symptoms, you have a job to do.”
In another case, a man vomited while on the production line, and was told to continue working, and required to come back in the next day.
WATCH: Sheriff Tony Thompson tells @Maddow the massive spike in COVID-19 cases in his county is due to Tyson Foods' "inept, reactionary and dysfunctional responses" to calls to shut down its meat processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa. pic.twitter.com/UQbCBO7b2F
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 30, 2020
However, while the managers were downplaying the severity of the virus to their employees, they were making efforts to stay away from the plant floor because they feared getting the virus themselves.
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The managers even delegated their tasks to low-ranking employees with no management experience. They also continued to deny that any employees at the plant were infected when hundreds were getting sick.
At one point, the plant was recognized as a super spreading location in the region and there were calls to shut it down among local government and law enforcement. Behind closed doors, they told employees that they had a responsibility to the company to keep working, even after they had tested positive.
"The place needs to be closed down." Waterloo, Iowa, Mayor Quentin Hart is calling for workers to be protected amid cases of Covid-19 at a Tyson Foods plant. https://t.co/OhAeVZCHWd pic.twitter.com/mKSQCNMT4Y
— CNN (@CNN) April 22, 2020
The company has denied all of the allegations, insisting that they went above and beyond to ensure that its employees were safe.
The company also claims that it was ordered to keep its factories open by President Donald Trump, who activated the Defense Production Act to ensure that America had a steady supply of food. However, despite promising to keep shelves stocked in the United States, the company increased its imports to China by 600% in the first quarter of 2020.
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