clearn.png
Thursday March 4th, 2021 8:09PM

Lawsuits: Tyson managers bet on virus cases at Iowa plant

By The Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The top official at Tyson Foods’ largest pork plant created a pool for managers to bet on how many workers would get infected during a widespread coronavirus outbreak, lawyers for the estates of four dead workers allege.

In recently amended wrongful death lawsuits, plaintiffs’ lawyers allege that Tyson's Waterloo plant manager Tom Hart “organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager on how many employees would test positive for COVID-19.”

Hart allegedly organized the pool last spring as the virus spread through the Waterloo plant, ultimately infecting more than 1,000 of its 2,800 workers, killing at least six and sending many others to the hospital. The outbreak eventually tore through the broader Waterloo community.

Hart did not respond to an email seeking comment, and the plant’s phone rang unanswered Thursday. A spokesman for Arkansas-based Tyson, which reported strong earnings and sales on Monday, didn’t reply to messages.

The lawyers represent the estates of Sedika Buljic, 58; Reberiano Garcia, 60; Jose Ayala Jr., 44; and Isidro Fernandez, age unknown. Buljic, Garcia and Fernandez died in April, and Ayala died May 25 after a six-week hospitalization.

The allegation, which was first reported Wednesday by the Iowa Capital Dispatch news site, generated widespread outrage against Tyson on social media and in Waterloo.

Democratic State Rep. Ras Smith, whose district includes the plant, said Hart should be fired if the allegation is founded and that workplace safety officials should investigate.

“They were knowingly allowing this virus to spread rampantly in the plant and the community. The more we hear, the more we find out how insidious and intentional it was,” Smith said.

At the time of the alleged betting, Tyson was resisting pressure from local officials to shut down the plant as a safety precaution. The company argued the plant, which can process nearly 20,000 hogs per day, was a vital market for farmers and critical to the meat supply.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who allowed Tyson to keep the plant open and praised its executives for taking voluntary safety measures, did not answer directly Thursday when asked whether her trust in the company was misplaced. Reynolds, who signed a law in June shielding companies from liability for some COVID-19 related injuries, instead praised her administration for inspecting the plant and helping organize mass testing of workers.

A sheriff helping lead Black Hawk County's pandemic response said that during an April tour of the plant, he was “shaken to the core” after seeing workers not social distancing or wearing adequate personal protective equipment.

Managers told workers they had a responsibility to stay on the job to ensure that Americans didn’t go hungry, even while they started avoiding the plant floor themselves because they were afraid of contracting the virus, the lawsuits allege. They increasingly delegated responsibilities to low-level supervisors with no management training or experience.

One upper-level manager, John Casey, ordered a sick supervisor who was leaving to get tested to get back to work, and told others they and their subordinates had to keep working even if they had symptoms, the lawsuits allege. Casey allegedly told workers the virus was the “glorified flu” and “not a big deal” because everyone would get it.

On a tour of the plant with Hart, Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors on April 20 saw four workers within six feet of each other in one part of the plant, records show. Tyson said it was still in the process of installing barriers at the time.

The plant soon suspended operations to allow for the mass-testing of employees and it reopened about two weeks later with new safety protocols. Iowa OSHA said in June that it found no violations of its standards during the April 20 inspection.

Tyson has asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuits, arguing that the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries under Iowa law is through the workers’ compensation system. Its lawyers also argue that the plaintiffs have failed to show that the deceased workers contracted the virus at the plant and not elsewhere.

___

Follow Ryan J. Foley on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rjfoley

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Agriculture, AP Business - Poultry & Egg
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
California enacts nighttime curfew as COVID-19 cases spike
California is enacting a nighttime curfew Saturday as spiking coronavirus cases threaten to swamp health care systems
12:49AM ( 2 hours ago )
Court: Tennessee can enforce Down syndrome abortion ban
A federal appeals court has ruled that Tennessee can begin outlawing abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome
9:21PM ( 5 hours ago )
Georgia officials certify election results showing Biden win
Georgia’s Republican governor and top elections official have certified results showing Democrat Joe Biden won the presidential race over Republican President Donald Trump
7:45PM ( 7 hours ago )
U.S. News
Biden could announce Cabinet picks as soon as next week
President-elect Joe Biden is moving quickly to fill out his administration and could name top Cabinet nominations as early as next week
1:58AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Hospitals in India's capital near capacity
India has reported 46,232 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, with the situation particularly alarming in New Delhi
1:04AM ( 2 hours ago )
Analysis: With silence, GOP enables Trump's risky endgame
Republicans in Congress are engaged in a risky but calculated bet that once President Donald Trump has exhausted his legal challenges to the election, he will come to grips with his loss to President-elect Joe Biden
12:56AM ( 2 hours ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump tries to leverage power of office to subvert Biden win
President Donald Trump is trying to leverage the power of the Oval Office in an extraordinary attempt to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory
10:02PM ( 5 hours ago )
Mexico tops 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, 4th country to do so
A day after Mexico passed the 100,000 mark in confirmed COVID-19 deaths, becoming only the fourth country to do so, its president and the mayor of its capital struck dramatically different tones
9:06PM ( 6 hours ago )
Death on eve of Brazil's Black Consciousness Day sparks fury
A Black man died after being beaten by supermarket security guards in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre on the eve of Friday’s Black Consciousness Day observations
8:31PM ( 6 hours ago )
AP National News
Georgia Secretary of State certifies election for Joe Biden
Georgia’s top elections official has certified results showing Democrat Joe Biden won the presidential race in the state
4:41PM ( 10 hours ago )
Illinois teen charged in protest slayings posts $2M bail
An Illinois 17-year-old charged with killing two people during a protest in Wisconsin has posted bail and been released from custody
4:25PM ( 10 hours ago )
Lieutenant gov's flags fly in the face of some PA lawmakers
Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, Democrat John Fetterman, may have gotten under somebody’s skin
4:24PM ( 10 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
Georgia residents, doctor, lawmaker helped in vaccine effort
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Savannah’s Dr. Paul Bradley, who in July dosed the first patient in biotechnology company Moderna’s U.S. phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial, on Monday celebrated the...
12:01AM ( 3 hours ago )
US, Taiwan step up economic cooperation in new dialogue
The U.S. and Taiwan are stepping up cooperation in a newly created economic dialogue, in another move from the outgoing Trump administration to increase official exchanges with the self-ruled island
12:00AM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Japan's confirmed COVID-19 cases hit new record
Japans health ministry says the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan reached a record for the third day straight, at 2,418 cases
11:25PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
What does emergency use for a COVID-19 vaccine mean?
The first COVID-19 vaccines to be given in the U.S. are expected to get a green light from regulators under a process known as emergency use authorization
9:46AM ( 17 hours ago )
Criminal probe, legal fights await Trump after White House
President Donald Trump’s legal entanglements are likely to intensify when he leaves the White House and loses immunity from prosecution
1:01AM ( 1 day ago )
NY probes Trump consulting payments that reduced his taxes
New York’s attorney general has sent a subpoena to the Trump Organization for records related to consulting fees paid to Ivanka Trump as part of an investigation into the president’s business dealings
12:45AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Wall Street slips amid worries about worsening pandemic
Stocks ended an up-and-down week on a down note on Wall Street Friday, taking 0.7% off the S&P 500
4:56PM ( 10 hours ago )
Mnuchin denies trying to hinder incoming administration
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is denying that he is trying to limit the choices President-elect Joe Biden will have to promote an economic recovery by ending several emergency loan programs being run by the Federal Reserve
3:44PM ( 11 hours ago )
Mnuchin denies he's trying to hinder incoming administration
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is denying that he is trying to limit the choices President-elect Joe Biden will have to promote an economic recovery by ending several emergency loan programs being run by the Federal Reserve
11:02AM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Court upholds nuisance verdicts against hog-production giant
An appeals court has upheld a 2018 jury verdict that led to monetary awards for neighbors of an eastern North Carolina industrial hog operation for its smells and noise
5:32PM ( 1 day ago )
China defends food import controls to curb virus
China’s government is defending anti-coronavirus controls that have disrupted imports of beef, poultry and fish from the United States, New Zealand and other trading partners
7:16AM ( 2 days ago )
Peru awaits new president's swearing in with cautious hope
Peruvians were returning to their daily lives as the South American nation prepared to swear in its third president in the span of a week
3:57PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Business - Agriculture
Pilgrim's Pride reaches plea deal on chicken price-fixing
Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. has reached a plea agreement with the U.S. government over charges of price-fixing in the chicken industry
11:38AM ( 1 month ago )
The Latest: Gov. Cuomo won’t let NYC reopen restaurants
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he won’t let New York City reopen its restaurants for indoor dining until the city has a plan to monitor and ensure they’re following regulations for coronavirus prevention
2:10PM ( 2 months ago )
The Latest: WHO panel to offer report on virus next year
An independent panel appointed by the World Health Organization to review its coordination of the response to the coronavirus pandemic says it will have full access to any internal U.N. agency documents, materials and emails
12:07PM ( 2 months ago )
AP Business - Poultry & Egg
California enacts nighttime curfew as COVID-19 cases spike
California is enacting a nighttime curfew Saturday as spiking coronavirus cases threaten to swamp health care systems
12:49AM ( 2 hours ago )
Court: Tennessee can enforce Down syndrome abortion ban
A federal appeals court has ruled that Tennessee can begin outlawing abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome
8:37PM ( 6 hours ago )
Georgia officials certify election results showing Biden win
Georgia’s Republican governor and top elections official have certified results showing Democrat Joe Biden won the presidential race over Republican President Donald Trump
7:45PM ( 7 hours ago )
Georgia governor certifies presidential electors for Biden
Georgia’s Republican governor and top elections official have certified results showing Joe Biden won the presidential race over Republican President Donald Trump
7:06PM ( 8 hours ago )
1st drug for rare rapid-aging disease extends kids' lives
The first treatment has been approved for a rare disease that causes rapid aging in children
6:41PM ( 8 hours ago )