After announcing an outbreak in Storm Lake with more than 500 employees testing positive for COVID-19, Tyson and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds returned to business as usual.
Months into this pandemic and with thousands of infected employees, Tyson continues to prioritize production over safety—with the full support of our governor, Sen. Joni Ernst and President Donald Trump. You would think that after having to close several meat packing plants because of COVID-19, they would understand that if they don’t take care of their employees, production is going to suffer.
Then again, maybe we’re asking too much.
I talked with one employee at the Tyson plant in Perry who expressed her fear of going back to work because of how Tyson has been handling the pandemic and why so many people in the plant have been infected. According to her, Tyson didn’t take the necessary precautions since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Entire families work there, and if one family member tested positive, they will tell the rest of their relatives to keep working. I know a woman that works there, her husband tested positive and she had to keep working despite the risk,” she said.
This employee added that in her church there are about one hundred members, and all of them have been affected by the virus, either by getting infected themselves or somebody within their family.
I had the opportunity to talk to another Tyson worker who tested positive on April 23, and since then hasn’t been back to work because she has underlying conditions and it’s taking her longer to recuperate.
“Having Covid-19, diabetes and high blood pressure made me really sick—the ambulance had to take me to the hospital,” she said.
She added that during the month she’s been off working, Tyson only paid her for the week the plant closed and a five hundred dollar bonus. She added that Tyson claimed not receiving the doctor’s paperwork; her doctor said they did. Now she’s at home, with no money, still sick and worried about paying the hospital bills.
A third employee I spoke with started feeling sick on April 18, later testing positive on the 25th.
After more than a month of not working because of COVID-19, she hasn’t been paid for all this time she has been off.
She was told to call the Tyson Food disability management line, and they too told her that her doctor didn’t send any paperwork. When she called her doctor, the clinic said they faxed the paperwork a while ago. The second time she called Tyson’s disability number, she was told to call the company’s human resources department.
It seems that Tyson has a very good point system to make sure workers go to work, but not to pay them when they need their money the most.
It’s sad hearing about workers becoming victims of Tyson’s neglect and now being re-victimized because of administrative processes.
by Claudia Thrane, with reporting from Joey Aguirre
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