IOWA CITY, Iowa – Tyson Foods has fired seven top managers at their largest pig center after an independent investigation confirmed allegations that they bet how many employees would be positive for the coronavirus, the company announced Wednesday.
The company said the investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, revealed aggravated behavior that led to a burn at the plant in Waterloo, Iowa. A revolution around the plant affected more than 1,000 workers, at least six of whom died.
“We value our people and expect everyone on the team, especially our leaders, to work with integrity and care in everything we do. , ”Said Tyson Foods President and CEO Dean Banks in a statement. “The behavior these people represent does not represent Tyson’s core values, which is why we took immediate and appropriate action to get to the truth.”
Banks traveled to the Waterloo plant on Wednesday to discuss what he had done with staff.
Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said the company will not release detailed results of the investigation or the names of the people burned, citing privacy concerns.
“We can tell you that Mr. Holder and his team looked specifically at the game allegations and found enough evidence for us to conclude those involved,” he said.
Tyson suspended several senior executives last month and retained the law firm Covington & Burling LLP, of which Holder is a partner, to conduct the investigation.
Former maintenance manager Cody Brustkern said he cooperated with the investigation but was fired for 10 years on Tuesday night without explanation. He said executives were “protecting the brand” over their long-term managers.
“The way this was handled was very disappointing,” he said. “I still don’t know why I was shot. It’s crazy. ”
Lawyers for the families of four Waterloo workers who died claim in a lawsuit that plant manager Tom Hart set up a pool of bets for managers to pledge the percentage of plant workers who would be positive for COVID-19.
Hart reportedly set up the pool last spring when the virus spread through the Waterloo plant and the Waterloo community in general.
A former supervisor reported the lawyer to the grievance lawyers, saying he and nine others put $ 10 into the pool during major staff trials. The winner who drew a piece of paper with the correct percentage out of a hat received the $ 100 payment.
Mel Orchard, a lawyer for the families of the deceased workers, said the shootings proved the veracity of some “ghoulish” allegations in the lawsuits. He said Tyson was “interfering in the lives of employees” by reducing the virus and not offering an appropriate safety warning.
“I’m thankful they may be getting to the bottom of it, but it’s far too late for some people,” he said. “I hope Eric Holder will continue on this issue and continue to explore the real issue: How is it that over a thousand workers at one center fell ill and many died?”
The lawyers allege that plant managers were pressuring workers to continue working, even through illness, and that the company was waiting too long to close the plant to stop the ar-a-mach.
Managers told employees that they had a duty to stay at work to ensure that Americans would not go hungry, even when they began to avoid the floor of the plants themselves because they were afraid of getting the virus.
The lawyers cite Hart, Brustkern, managers John Casey and Bret Tapken and human resources director James Hook as defendants. Attempts to reach Hart, Casey, Tapken and Hook immediately failed.
Tyson vowed Wednesday to open more avenues for employees to raise concerns, to create a working group to strengthen collaboration with community leaders and to reinforce the importance of its values. Banks said the Holder team would help “look for ways to develop a reliable and respectful workplace. ”
The steps come as Tyson opposes an ongoing investigation into his COVID-19 response, and a debate over whether Congress and states should shield companies from legal liability related to employees and customers contagious.
New York City Governor-General Scott Stinger on Tuesday called on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Tyson has given misleading disclosures to investors about his leaked response.
“Tyson’s failure is a human cost – preventable deaths, hospitalization and sick staff. These failures have significant consequences for its business operations which pose significant risks to shareholders, ”he said.
Separately, the family of another Tyson Foods employee claims in a lawsuit that he died from COVID-19 after the meat processing giant implemented safety protocols to protect against the crown- virus at the plant in Storm Lake, Iowa, where he worked.
Michael Everhard, 65, of Fonda, died of COVID-19 on June 18, three weeks after being diagnosed with the virus. His family claims he seized the Storm Lake plant where he worked for 27 years, the Sioux City Journal reported.
The lawsuit, filed by Everhard’s three children, argues that Tyson and his managers asked him and other employees to continue working in a “coronavirus-rich” environment and did not security measures are in place to protect them from getting caught by the virus, Storm Lake Willis lawyer Hamilton said.
Tyson spokeswoman Liz Croston said the company has implemented a number of measures at its facilities that meet or exceed federal guidelines to prevent the release of COVID-19.