Shut down the Tyson Foods meat plant in Washington State
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As of Wednesday, April 22nd, at least 100 Tyson Fresh Meats workers in Washington State have tested positive for Covid-19 and one worker has died. Meat processing centers across the nation have been shut down for fourteen days to stop the virus’s spread when employees tested positive – two of them are Tyson-owned – but because of a lack of pressure from elected officials, Tyson continues to keep their Wallula plant running, exposing hundreds of other workers to the virus and endangering the neighborhoods and communities in which those workers live, shop, and go to the doctor.
We need your help to tell Tyson Foods CEO Noel White and local and state officials, including Governor Jay Inslee, to shut Tyson’s meat plant for at least fourteen days or until extensive testing can be done before Washington State cases skyrocket. So far, plants have not been shutting down without pressure from local and state governments.
Why is this plant staying open? Walla Walla County Community Health director Meghan DeBolt says that it’s because these workers are incapable of “proper social distancing” at home and that they would spread it to fewer people if they came to work. When she met with the Benton-Franklin Health District, the Washington State Department of Health and plant managers, they decided the plant will go on running with “preventive measures” like “checking worker temperatures,” providing “hand-sanitizer stations,” masks, and “workstation dividers.” But we know the virus spreads long before it causes a fever, and dividers will not stop the virus from spreading in congregation points like entryways, the cafeteria, and crammed carpools to and from the workers’ residences in nearby Tri-Cities and Walla Walla. DeBolt said she wants a long-term solution, not a band-aid, but the only way to stop the spread of the virus and "reset" the plant is to stop operations for two weeks and reconfigure the plant to be much safer when workers return.
What happened to other plants that kept running during an outbreak? A JBS USA meat-packing plant in Colorado implemented similar protective measures, for example putting plastic sheets between workers, but last week, two workers died of coronavirus, forcing JBS to finally shut the plant down for a deep cleaning. Had JBS done so sooner, those deaths might have been prevented. Sioux Falls, South Dakota is now home to one of the largest known clusters of coronavirus cases in the country: 934 cases, 644 of which can be directly traced to the Smithfield meat processing plant. They had even installed Plexiglas dividers between workers. The plant is now closed until further notice, but the deaths that have resulted from the negligence of managers and state and local officials (six so far) can’t be undone.
Add your name now to demand that Tyson put people over profit by shutting down their Wallula plant and informing workers about how to avoid spreading the virus in their own languages rather than assume those workers are incapable of social distancing. Workers should also have access to extra sick leave, which Tyson does not offer, to incentivize staying home while sick, and they should be compensated for the temporary closure. Instead Tyson currently offers a bonus of $500 for staying at work through the end of June. Tyson knew about the emerging outbreak at the plant as early as April 1st. If they now have to temporarily close for a delayed and negligent response, they should pay their workers through the shut-down.
Today: Ittai is counting on you
Ittai Orr needs your help with “Walla Walla County, Governor Inslee and Tyson Foods: Shut down the Tyson meat plant and protect and compensate workers!”. Join Ittai and 5,603 supporters today.