wow, the Covid situation at the meatpacking plants was WAY worse than we thought
at one Tyson plant in Texas, about 50% of the staff had Covid
— Deena Shanker (@deenashanker) October 27, 2021
This is *not* actually new information — I kept starting posts with news stories about the terrible conditions in meatpacking plants beginning in mid-2020, well before vaccines were available. And then scrapping those unfinished posts, because there was just too much material for a well-meaning amateur to do justice!
WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) – Workers at the leading U.S. meatpacking plants experienced cases and death from COVID-19 that were up to three times previous estimates, according to a report by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis seen by Reuters.
The U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee surveyed major meatpackers Tyson Foods (TSN.N), JBS USA (JBS.UL), Cargill (CARG.UL), National Beef (NBEEF.UL) and Smithfield Foods (SFII.UL), which together control over 80% of the beef market and 60% of the pork market in the United States.
At those companies’ plants, worker cases of COVID-19 totaled 59,147 and deaths totaled 269, based on counts through January of this year, according to the report which was released on Wednesday ahead of the subcommittee hearing on the pandemic’s impact on meatpacking workers…
Cases were especially high at certain plants, including JBS’s Hyrum, Utah, beef plant and Tyson’s Amarillo, Texas, beef plant, where around 50% of workers contracted the virus, according to the report.
The subcommittee’s findings also included new details of lax safety protocols at some of the plants.
In May 2020 at Tyson’s Amarillo plant, for instance, workers wore masks “saturated” with fluids, were not socially distanced, and were separated by “plastic bags on frames” instead of CDC-compliant barriers, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) memo obtained by the subcommittee.
Both Tyson and JBS said in statements on Wednesday that they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on COVID-19 health and safety efforts…
I’m guessing, from my reading back in May 2020, that a substantial percentage of that ‘hundreds of millions’ was divided between sending professionals to intimidate workers who complained / lawyers to bullyrag covid victims & their families / lobbyists to convince local & national political leaders that, hey, it wasn’t that bad, you know how those people like to whine, always looking for a free ride… just incidentally, do you know how much Tyson / JBS donated to your
last campaign local tax base?
Also, I don’t think those stats include the infections & deaths among the meatpackers’ families, or their neighbors, because a lot of the reports I remember from that period included horro stories about entire extended families sickened, with the oldest and most vulnerable members most likely to die.
The subcommittee report also suggested that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had not done enough to protect workers in the meat industry from the virus.
OSHA staff told the subcommittee that under former President Donald Trump, the agency’s leadership made a political decision not to issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) that would have required meatpackers to take certain safety precautions, the report said.
“Without being held to any specific standard, meatpacking companies were left with largely unchecked discretion to determine how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, to the detriment of meatpacking workers,” the report said…
One key factor this particular article doesn’t stress: Many, if not most, of the affected workers were people of color and/or immigrants. Again, this was a common thread to the media reports at the time; ‘nobody’ (who had the power to do anything about it) cared that the Somali / Hispanic / African-American workers were getting sick, bringing infection home to their families & (‘ghetto’) neighborhoods, dying out of all proportion to their numbers. The few politicians who *did* raise their voices were met with indifference or threats — We never wanted Those People here in the first place, undercutting wages & stealing jobs from us Real Americans!
Yes, it’s a good thing that the statistics are being parsed for the permanent record. But none of this is *new* information — just facts that were inconvenient to acknowledge during a period of product scarcity, under a Republican