A wrongful-death lawsuit has accompanied stunning allegations at a Tyson Foods plant in Iowa, where managers are accused of betting money on how many workers would contract COVID-19, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch and multiple news outlets across the country. The lawsuit has been filed by Oscar Fernandez, whose father, Isidro, died in April due to complications from the virus.
The allegations of betting in Waterloo date to the early part of the pandemic but were revealed this month after Fernandez amended his lawsuit. Tyson’s Waterloo facility is the company’s largest pork processing facility, employing about 2,800 people, and the company as a whole processes a huge slice of the meat annually in the U.S.
“Defendant Tom Hart, the Plant Manager of the Waterloo Facility, organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for COVID-19,” the lawsuit claims. Hart is just one of a handful of people who have been named.
Many managers who are the subject of the lawsuit have been suspended without pay, Tyson President and CEO Dean Banks said Thursday. Banks also said that former Attorney General Eric Holder has launched an investigation into the allegations. Banks, himself, was personally named in the lawsuit.
According to CNN’s reporting, the updated lawsuit stated that ” ‘most managers at the Waterloo Facility started avoiding the plant floor because they were afraid of contracting the virus’ in late March or early April. While the virus spread on the meatpacking floor, managers delegated their duties to ‘low-level supervisors with no management training or experience.’ “
NPR said, “The top brass also allegedly told workers ‘they had a responsibility to keep working in order to ensure Americans don’t go hungry.’ “
The coronavirus pandemic ravaged the meatpacking industry throughout the spring, infecting thousands of workers and forcing companies such as Tyson, Smithfield Foods, and JBS to temporarily shutter slaughterhouses hardest hit by outbreaks. An estimated 4,600 cases of coronavirus and 18 deaths had been linked just to Tyson Foods during the first couple months of the pandemic.