- At least five Tyson workers from meat processing plants in Georgia and Iowa have died of COVID-19, as hundreds of workers in the industry fall ill.
- Tyson still does not offer paid sick leave, instead offering short-term disability for those being treated for COVID-19, which allows workers to earn 60% of their pay.
- “We continue working diligently to protect our team members at facilities across the country by taking worker temperatures, requiring protective face coverings and conducting additional cleaning and sanitizing,” said Tyson representative Liz Croston.
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At least five Tyson workers across two states have died of COVID-19. Hundreds more workers in the meat industry have fallen ill in the coronavirus pandemic.
But, while Tyson has shifted some policies, it still does not offer workers paid sick leave.
On Thursday, Tyson confirmed that two employees at its plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, had died. The plant has been closed since April 6. Tyson employees from the plant make up 148 of 166 coronavirus cases in the county.
Last week, three workers at a Tyson plant in Camille, Georgia, died of COVID-19. Hundreds of other workers in the meat processing industry have fallen ill in recent weeks across the country.
“We continue working diligently to protect our team members at facilities across the country by taking worker temperatures, requiring protective face coverings and conducting additional cleaning and sanitizing,” Tyson representative Liz Croston said in a statement to Business Insider on Thursday.
“We’re implementing social distancing measures, such as installing workstation dividers, spreading out work stations where possible, and providing more breakroom space,” Croston continued.
Workers will be sent home if their temperature is over 100.4, Croston said. Croston did not clarify if workers will be paid for the shift if they are found to have a fever but said that the waiting period for short-term disability will be waived for those being treated by a doctor for COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19.
Tyson does not offer paid sick leave for workers
While Tyson has adjusted some workers’ policies, it still does not offer paid sick leave for workers.
Tyson has said that, during the pandemic, no punitive measures will be taken if workers do not show up for work, and the five-day waiting period for short term disability has been waived. Short-term disability only makes up 60% of typical pay.
The lack of paid sick leave sparked backlash throughout the food industry, as the coronavirus spread across the US. Fast-food chains such as McDonald’s were criticized due to the fact that hundreds of thousands of workers did not have paid sick leave. In recent weeks, many major fast-food chains have changed their sick leave policies and encouraged franchisees to do the same.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the meat industry has been struggling with supply chain issues. Companies have been forced to shut down plants as workers have caught the coronavirus, and the loss of traditional customers have left farmers with a glut of excess animals.
“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” Smithfield CEO Kenneth Sullivan said in a statement after the company closed a major pork plant on Sunday.
He added: “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running.”