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Tyson completes investigation of wagering allegations at Waterloo plant, fires 7 managers

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- Tyson Foods, Inc. has announced seven managers at the Waterloo Tyson Pork Processing Plant have been fired following an independent investigation into allegations supervisors placed bets on who among the workforce would get the coronavirus.

Several managers at the Waterloo plant were suspended without pay on Nov. 19 after a wrongful death lawsuit tied to COVID-19 infections was filed.

The lawsuit alleges Plant Manager Tom Hart organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many plant employees would test positive for COVID-19. It also alleges Tyson Foods, Inc. is guilty of a "willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety."

President & CEO Dean Banks was at the facility on Nov. 19 and again on Wednesday to speak with employees about the actions the company is taking.

“We value our people and expect everyone on the team, especially our leaders, to operate with integrity and care in everything we do. The behaviors exhibited by these individuals do not represent the Tyson core values, which is why we took immediate and appropriate action to get to the truth.  Now that the investigation has concluded, we are taking action based on the findings.”

Dean Banks, Tyson Foods President & CEO

KWWL spoke with local leaders, State Rep. Ras Smith and Black Hawk County Supervisor Chris Schwartz, who had been vocal about the allegations and safety concerns at the Waterloo plant.

"When it comes to meatpacking plants it seems to be a pervasive issue in the devaluing of employees. It's like they value the work more than they value the workers," Smith said.

Smith said he's drafting legislation to introduce next session that would offer protections for Iowa workers and potentially add oversight to companies like Tyson.

"My hope is that they take this opportunity to change the way they operate, to change the way they treat their people," Smith said.

Smith worries that this could be just the tip of misconduct in meatpacking plants, referring to other allegations that Tyson officials in Waterloo misled interpreters about the dangers of COVID-19.

"The callous attitudes Tyson management displayed towards the well being of their employees lives is reprehensible. It is clear that this shake-up needed to happen but it is also clear that Tyson is a bad corporate actor that puts profit over people and the environment in it's operations across the nation."

Chris Schwartz, Black Hawk County Supervisor

"Reports that these supervisors took bets on how many workers would get infected with COVID-19 are stunning and heartbreaking. This type of behavior should outrage every American and this action is an important step to holding these supervisors accountable."

Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International VP Mark Lauritsen

According to a release from Tyson sent to KWWL, along with actions taken against those involved, the company plans on:

  • Opening more communication channels to hear the voices of team members, create a working group of local community leaders to strengthen collaboration
  • Creating a working group of local community leaders to strengthen collaboration
  • Reinforcing the importance of Tyson Foods’ core values and team behaviors

In an earlier statement, the company says it had retained the law firm Covington & Burling LLP to conduct the independent investigation into the allegations. Tyson says the investigation would be led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

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