Every few weeks, we learn a new fact about American labor conditions that would have French people lighting a cop on fire. This edition comes from a new wrongful death lawsuit aimed at Tyson Foods, the massive frozen food company whose plants have been hotbeds of COVID-19 infection throughout the pandemic. According to a report from the Iowa Capital Dispatch, the lawsuit reveals that upper management at one Tyson plant in Waterloo, IA had a betting pool based around how many of their employees would contract the coronavirus.
The allegation is one of many in the lawsuit attempting to paint a picture of callous disregard for human life and employee safety, in the hopes of proving Tyson Foods was responsible for the death of Isidro Fernandez, an employee who passed away in April. As many as five people who worked in the plant have passed away and over 1000 workers who tested positive for COVID-19 at the plant, according to the Blackhawk County Health Department.
In spite of claims that manager Tom Hart ran a winner-take-all betting pool around his employees contracting COVID, Tyson claimed in a statement that their "top priority is the health and safety of our workers and we’ve implemented a host of protective measures at Waterloo and our other facilities that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing COVID-19."
Fernandez's family alleges further disregard for the concerns and safety of workers by management. A manager named John Casey reportedly called the virus a "glorified flu" and stopped one worker who was on the way to be tested, saying “We all have symptoms — you have a job to do.”
The suit claims that managers began to avoid the plant as the outbreak became more severe, delegating their duties to employees with little to no experience in management. It adds that Tyson encouraged sick workers to ignore their symptoms by offering bonuses tied to perfect attendance during the pandemic.
Tyson claims that they were operating during the pandemic "at the direction of a federal officer," namely President Donald Trump. In late April, Trump ordered processing plants to remain open using his executive powers, in spite of the raging outbreaks at several facilities.