IOWA CITY, Iowa, U.S. (AP) – Tyson Foods suspended some supervisors at its largest pork processing plant on Thursday and opened an investigation into allegations that they gambled on the number of employees who would be infected. because of a widespread coronavirus outbreak.
The company’s president and CEO, Dean Banks, said he was “extremely upset” by the allegations against supervisors at his Waterloo, Iowa plant, noting that they do not represent the company’s values. Banks stated that he hired the law firm Covington & Burling LLP to conduct an investigation, which will be led by former Attorney General Eric Holder.
“If these allegations are confirmed, we will take all necessary steps to completely end this disruptive behavior at our company,” Banks said in a statement.
Banks said the accused supervisors were suspended without pay. He traveled to Waterloo Thursday to explain the company’s response directly to the workers, who were sent home in the early hours of the first shift, said Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson.
Mickelson said the Arkansas-based company would not release the names of those suspended during the investigation of Holder, who served as attorney general for six years during the Obama administration.
Tyson has faced strong criticism over a series of amended wrongful death lawsuits, in which prosecutors’ attorneys claim that Waterloo plant supervisor Tom Hart “organized a pool between supervisors and managers in which they were betting how many employees would test positive for COVID-19. “
Hart apparently ran the pool last spring as the virus spread through the Waterloo plant, an outbreak that caused infections in more than 1,000 of the plant’s 2,800 employees, killing at least six of them and sending many more to the hospital. The outbreak eventually spread to the rest of the Waterloo community.
Prosecuting attorney Mel Orchard said he was “happily surprised” by Tyson’s actions and hopes Holder will conduct a full-scale investigation into the company’s anti-virus security efforts.
“It will not change what happened. These people are gone, but can we prevent more deaths? ” Orchard asked. “Hope so. Because it will be necessary to settle accounts ”.
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