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Fired Manager Calls COVID Betting Pool a 'Morale Boost'

The virus killed at least six workers at a Tyson pork plant
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 30, 2020 4:26 PM CST

(Newser) – One of the Tyson Foods managers fired for betting on how many workers would contract COVID-19 at a Waterloo, Iowa, pork plant said the office pool was spontaneous fun and intended to boost morale. Don Merschbrock said he was speaking in an attempt to show that the seven fired supervisors fired are “not the evil people” that Tyson has portrayed. “We really want to clear our names,” he told the AP. “We actually worked very hard and took care of our team members well.” Tyson announced the terminations of the managers Dec. 16, weeks after the betting allegation surfaced in wrongful death lawsuits filed by the families of four workers who died of COVID-19. Merschbrock said he is more willing to speak than the other fired managers since he isn't a named defendant in the lawsuits.

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He said managers conducted the office pool last spring within minutes following mass testing of the plant's roughly 2,800 workers. More than 1,000 workers tested positive for the virus, which hospitalized several and killed at least six. Merschbrock said managers were given the “impossible task” of maintaining production while implementing virus safety precautions. The office pool involved roughly $50 cash, which went to the winner who picked the correct percentage of workers testing positive, Merschbrock said. "It was a group of exhausted supervisors that had worked so hard and so smart to solve many unsolvable problems," Merschbrock said. "It was simply something fun, kind of a morale boost for having put forth an incredible effort. There was never any malicious intent. It was never meant to disparage anyone."

(Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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