“Food supply chain is breaking.”
Tyson Foods Chairman John H. Tyson responds to the ongoing suspension of their meat processing plants. He emphasizes how the suspension of multiple meat processing facilities will affect the nation’s food supply. In the open letter that they published as an ad on Sunday’s New York Times, Washington Post and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Chairman Tyson gave an outline on how their facilities have responded to the Coronavirus health crisis.
The chairman of the board said that meat shortages are not the only issue. The ongoing response will result in food waste. America’s farmers won’t have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed. Depopulation will take place, and this will break the food chain supply.
Tyson said that their facilities had adopted new practices to prevent COVID-19 outspread. This includes social distancing requirements, workstation dividers, deep cleanings, and temperature screenings as precautionary measures. However, some of these new practices should’ve been a practice a long time ago.
A brief history of Tyson Foods’ unsafe practices
“Leading the way in food safety” is Tyson Foods’ company vision. However, they are the least safe place to work. Kirschner’s Korner wrote on how the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) required employers to report severe workplace injuries. In their 2015-2016 report, Tyson Foods ranked 4th in the list of most dangerous places to work. Out of 14,000 companies all over America, that is how high they placed. Tyson reports 70 amputations and hospitalizations all within one year of their recent report. Tyson Foods fail to provide safety mechanisms on their machinery. Kirschner reports that they don’t offer sufficient training, nor do they require protective equipment, resulting in the injuries that include amputations.
To top it all of, Tyson has been given a fine of more than $700,000 for underreporting these incidents. That’s right; the numbers are underreported.
In 2017, Tyson Foods promised better conditions and safety for Meat Workers. The list above on their new protocol due to the coronavirus includes some of those promises. This response comes after a petition on change.org was publicized. Pedro Lopez and his mother worked for Tyson Foods and saw their unsafe practices. For that, they were terminated. When the petition boomed, Tyson promised to give better conditions. The meat packaging plant is notorious for its unsafe practices and is bold in making such promises, as proved by the 2017 article by NPR. It is no surprise that the Coronavirus epidemic hit them hard this year.
90 workers in Wallula infected with Coronavirus
Komo News report on April 24th proves just how unsafe Tyson Foods is. The meat processing plant near Pasco was closed so all employees can be tested for Coronavirus. Once again, Tyson Foods’ underreporting comes to play. Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, said that over 19 employees tested positive with COVID-19. However, the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health’s report is far from the measly number 19. It turns out, over 90 Tyson employees, out of 1,400 employed workers, tested positive for the disease.
At that time, at least one worker reported dead due to the virus. The worker Guadalupe Olivera passed away days ago after being infected with the coronavirus, which he contracted while working at the Tyson Fresh Meats facility in Wallula. This drastic statistic is only in Wallula, what about the other Tyson Fresh Meat facilities all over America?
Tyson Foods’ Plea
Chairman Tyson said that the supply chain remains “vulnerable” until their plants can operate again. Unless the government pressures them to close down, they will continue to run at reduced levels of production. In the report by Fox News, the full page open letters/ads come a week after the Waterloo, Iowa branch was forced to suspend all operations. The report from Fox states that as of last week, four Tyson Foods’ employees have died due to the coronavirus.
The Coronavirus epidemic shows Tyson Foods’ lacking in terms of safety and health. It is no surprise that they can be forced to close, not because of the coronavirus but because of their inhumane working conditions.