A number of organizations that focus on food justice, labor rights, animal welfare, and environmental justice have teamed up to take action against Tyson Foods. A total of 122 groups wrote a letter to the company's shareholders to demand a response from them about the growing number of COVID-19 cases connected to their meat plants.
At the start of the pandemic, Tyson Foods shut down a couple of their facilities due to health and safety concerns, one of which was a pork processing plant in Iowa. In April, Tyson penned an open letter that was published as a full-page ad in multiple newspapers that warned readers that the food supply chain is "breaking." Two weeks ago, China announced they were no longer accepting items from Tyson Foods' Springdale, AR, facility.
Now, the aforementioned organizations are demanding answers from Tyson about what they're doing to keep their employees safe. According to research by Investigate Midwest, out of all of the big name meat processing companies, Tyson is tied to the highest number of positive COVID-19 cases by far. With more than 8,500 employees reportedly having tested positive for the virus, that puts Tyson's numbers at more than double any other company.
The group of organizations, which includes places like Greenpeace USA and The Humane League, said that the situation requires immediate action before more workers are put in harm's way. "The situation has never been more dire; meatpacking workers are risking their lives just by going to work under unsafe conditions," they wrote in their letter.
They called on Tyson Foods to make changes to their policies to keep their employees safe, including things like providing PPE, paid sick leave, offering testing at plant sites, and ensuring social distancing to those working in the factories. The letter was sent to a board of Tyson higher-ups, including CEO Noel White.
You can read the letter in full here.
In a statement to Delish, a spokesperson for Tyson said:
Our top priority is the well-being of our team members, their families and our communities, and we are doing everything we can to keep them safe and healthy. From early in the pandemic, we took numerous protective measures at our facilities to prevent the spread of the virus, and we continue to explore innovations such as new mask designs and contact tracing technology to make our workplaces even safer. We view testing as a tool for protecting our workers and believe we have conducted more testing than any other company in our industry. We have proactively disclosed verified test results, in coordination with local public health officials, and believe the data helps us all understand how to protect our team members and communities. Working closely with health officials and other medical experts, we continue to assess our overall approach to this virus and to determine the best ways to keep our team members healthy.
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