Tyson Employees Show Alarming Rates of COVID-19, Lack Meaningful Protections

Mercy For Animals, as part of a coalition of social justice groups, is calling on Tyson to take immediate action to better protect the safety and well-being of its employees and animals. The coalition, which includes workers’ rights, human rights, and environmental protection organizations, is launching a week of action amplifying a set of demands.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more than 30,000 meatpacking workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and over 100 have died from the illness. Tyson employees have tested positive for coronavirus at twice the rate of Tyson’s competitors, yet the company has failed to take actions necessary to adequately protect its employees. Tyson even reinstated its policy that punishes employees who don’t show up to work for fear of contracting the virus, leaving them to choose between their safety and their livelihoods.

Tyson allows chicken slaughter lines to run at rates of up to 175 birds a minutethat’s nearly three birds per second. Slaughterhouse workers, the majority of whom are immigrants and people of color, already suffer some of the highest rates of injury and dismemberment of any profession. This danger is heightened as line speeds increase. High-speed lines require more workers to complete the same task, demanding that they stand in close quarters and making social distancing impossible. In many cases, employees stand so close together that they cut one another with their knives as they work.

High-speed slaughter lines are also horrific for animals. Increased line speeds cause improper shackling and stunning, leaving countless animals conscious throughout the slaughter process. According to the USDA, in 2018 over 600,000 chickens were still alive when they reached the scalding feather-removal tanks.

Mercy For Animals and the other coalition members have sent a letter to Tyson’s shareholders, asking that they join us in demanding that Tyson take better care of its workers and animals. The letter reads in part:
The last few months have shown us how fragile our food system is, with meatpacking companies like Tyson representing one of the weakest links. Through its failure to adequately protect its workers, Tyson has sent the message that the lives of its workers—who are mostly people of color and immigrants—do not matter to them.
Join us in urging Tyson to prioritize workers and animals by providing adequate protective equipment, guaranteeing paid leave for workers sick with or exposed to COVID-19, and slowing down slaughter lines. Take action by visiting MercyForAnimals.org/ActionAgainstTyson or leaving a comment on Tyson’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages.
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