Tyson Foods Takes Action Over Managers' COVID Bets

7 managers have been fired at Waterloo, Iowa, plant
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2020 6:20 AM CST
Tyson Foods Takes Action Over Managers' COVID Bets
In this May 2020, file photo, Tyson's Fresh Meat workers file in for a tour of safety measures put into place after the plant in Waterloo, Iowa, had to shut down due to a COVID-19 outbreak.   (Brandon Pollock/The Courier via AP, File)

Tyson Foods has fired seven managers at the nation's biggest pork processing plant after an investigation into allegations that they bet on how many workers would test positive for COVID-19. Tyson hired former US Attorney General Eric Holder to lead the probe; he and his team "looked specifically at the gaming allegations and found sufficient evidence for us to terminate those involved," Tyson rep Gary Michelson tells NPR. At least 1,000 of 2,800 employees at the Waterloo, Iowa, plant tested positive for coronavirus, and at least five died. In a lawsuit filed in November, the family of deceased worker Isidro Fernandez claimed there was a "cash-buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers" on how many workers would test positive for COVID-19 in mid-April as they worked in close proximity without PPE, per CBS News. The plant was later forced to close for two weeks.

"We were very upset to learn of the behaviors found in the allegations, as we expect our leaders to treat all team members with the highest levels of respect and integrity," Tyson Foods President and CEO Dean Banks says in a statement. He adds "the behaviors exhibited by these individuals do not represent the Tyson core values." Banks met with team members and community leaders during a visit to the plant on Wednesday, per NPR. Michelson says Tyson's facilities have been transformed since April with "a host of protective measures … that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing COVID-19," including temperature scanners and workspace dividers. The statement notes Holder and his team will continue to assist Tyson "as we continue to look for ways to enhance a trusting and respectful workplace." (Read more Tyson Foods stories.)

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