On Nov. 19, the UFCW condemned the COVID-19 safety failures alleged in a wrongful death lawsuit tied to at least five meatpacking worker deaths and more than 1,000 meatpacking worker infections at a Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa. The infections impacted over a third of the plant’s workforce, which is represented by UFCW Local 431. The lawsuit alleges that employees were ordered to report to work, even if sick, while supervisors wagered money on the number of workers who would be infected by the virus.
The UFCW represents over 250,000 workers in meatpacking and food processing plants and has been a leading national voice in the push to protect these workers on the frontlines of COVID-19 in plants across the country. Our union recently estimated that at least 128 of our meatpacking members have died due to COVID-19 and over 19,800 of our members in meatpacking plants have been infected or exposed to the virus.
“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,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone in a statement. “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,” Perrone added. “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.”