Storm Lake, IA — Today, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak at a Tyson Foods pork plant in Storm Lake, Iowa, Food & Water Action demanded that Governor Kim Reynolds mandate all meat processing facilities with active COVID-19 cases across the state immediately shut down and remain shut down while there are active cases among workers in the plant. The group also demanded that all open facilities are required to immediately provide adequate worker protections like personal protective equipment and hazardous duty pay for the duration of the pandemic.
Tyson Foods is closing its pork plant in Storm Lake after 555 of its 2,517 workers, roughly 22% of its workforce, tested positive for COVID-19. However, according to a statement from Tyson, while testing has been completed for all plant employees, they are waiting to release the full data on this COVID-19 outbreak until “complete data is available”.
In response, John Aspray, Iowa Organizer for Food & Water Watch, released the following statement:
“This new outbreak shows once again that Tyson has failed its workers and Iowa communities. If Tyson can’t keep workers safe, they shouldn’t be allowed to operate. It’s just that simple.
“Governor Reynolds must step in to protect Iowans where meat companies are failing and mandate that all processing facilities with COVID-19 cases shut down immediately and stay shut down as long as necessary. Companies must also be required to provide personal protective equipment and hazardous duty pay for every single worker for the duration of the pandemic.
“Buena Vista County has just over 20,000 people in it. Tyson employs roughly 10% of the county. A politician that fails to keep 10% of its constituents safe would be voted out of office. But right now, Tyson has free reign to endanger its workers and Iowa consumers, all with the blessing of Governor Reynolds and President Trump.”
“This is another sign that our nation’s ‘Too Big to Fail’ system of meat production is, in fact, failing. For years, Iowa’s leaders have let Big Ag run roughshod over Iowa’s communities, big and small. We’ve seen it in the pollution of our waterways. We’ve seen it with the loss of our independent family farmers. And now we’re seeing it with our meatpacking workers.”
“Without significant changes to our food system, this is bound to happen again. We need to dismantle the factory farm economy by banning factory farms and replacing them with regionally-based networks of independent farms and regional meat processors. We need leaders that will enforce and strengthen regulations on our meat industry, from antitrust laws to worker safety measures to environmental protections.”