Workers at US meat plants blame coronavirus outbreaks on company policies
Workers from some of the country’s largest meat plants said they were ordered to work in crowded conditions even while sick and not provided appropriate protective gear, leading the facilities to become hotspots for coronavirus, according to a new report.
The outbreaks have caused three major meat producers — Tyson Foods, JBS USA and Smithfield Foods — to shutter at least 15 plants across the nation, further disrupt the country’s meat supply during the pandemic, the Washington Post reported.
The report found that more than 30 plants have been hit with the virus, which has sickened at least 3,300 workers and killed 17.
Employees from facilities across the country blamed the spread of the virus in the workplace on the companies’ policies.
Workers at JBS beef processing plant in Colorado claimed managers encouraged them to work for shifts even when they appeared sick, according to the outlet.
Meanwhile, three workers at a Smithfield distribution center in Indiana said they were told that the virus couldn’t spread in the facilities’ frigid temperatures despite there being no scientific evidence to back up this claim, the report said.
And some workers at a Tyson pork plant in Iowa used bandanas and sleep eyewear as facial coverings, while others wore no protection at all, the report said.
Workers from all three plants claimed that personal protective equipment was not immediately available as the number of coronavirus cases continued to climb throughout the country, according to the newspaper.
JBS USA said that it didn’t receive masks for workers until April 2, but didn’t make their use mandatory until April 13.
Tyson, however, said that they didn’t require all workers to wear masks until April 15, the report said.
Smithfield said it made masks available to all their workers, but didn’t say when this occurred, according to the report.
The three companies defended their efforts to prevent outbreaks of the virus among their employees, the newspaper reported.
Smithfield and Tyson said they implemented preventative measures – including educating workers about coronavirus – in February, while JBS said that it began doing the same in mid-March, according to the report.