WASHINGTON, DC - A new congressional investigation into the meatpacking industry’s COVID-19 response is targeting activity at Tyson's Waterloo plant.
A U.S. House subcommittee is calling on Tyson to release results of its investigation into management wagering on COVID-19 infections in workers.
Several Waterloo plant managers were fired after Tyson launched its investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Tyson has agreed to comply with the House committee, which says the company has not stated what it's doing to prevent worker abuses.
The House subcommittee says it wants the full report and documentation of Tyson's investigation. It says it wants the information by February 15th.
A letter from the subcommittee to Tyson President and CEO Dean Banks says the company has not been transparent with its investigation.
"According to the health department in Black Hawk County, Iowa, more than 1,000 workers at the plant contracted the virus and at least five employees died," the letter says. "After the allegation came to light that Tyson managers were betting on coronavirus infections, you stated that the company was “very upset to learn of the behaviors found in the allegations,” and Tyson terminated seven managers following an “independent investigation” the company commissioned. Tyson has not released the findings from this investigation and has not stated what controls it has implemented, if any, to prevent more abuses of worker health and safety or to identify potential similar conduct at other facilities."
The subcommittee says its investigation follows reports that nearly 54,000 workers at 569 meatpacking plants in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 270 have died.
The committee, known as the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, is chaired by Democratic Representative James Clyburn. The committee sent letters Monday to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods and JBS USA announcing the launch of its investigation into coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants nationwide.
"Public reports indicate that under the Trump Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) failed to adequately carry out its responsibility for enforcing worker safety laws at meatpacking plants across the country, resulting in preventable infections and deaths,” Chairman Clyburn wrote to OSHA. “It is imperative that the previous Administration’s shortcomings are swiftly identified and rectified to save lives in the months before coronavirus vaccinations are available for all Americans.”
The letter to Tyson noted the company reported $2.15 billion in profits and “strong returns for shareholders” in 2020, but said it did not take basic precautions to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks.