Tyson fires 7 after probe into managers betting if workers would get Covid-19 at Iowa plant

Safia Samee Ali

Tyson Foods terminated seven employees from an Iowa pork plant following an independent investigation into allegations that management wagered on how many workers would get infected with Covid-19, the meat processing giant announced on Wednesday.

All of those fired were plant management employees at the facility in Waterloo, Iowa.

“We value our people and expect everyone on the team, especially our leaders, to operate with integrity and care in everything we do,” said Dean Banks, Tyson Foods President and CEO, said in a statement on Wednesday. “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."

The wagering allegations, which stem from a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of deceased Tyson Foods Inc. employee, Isidro Fernandez, stated that plant management did not do enough to protect employees while Covid-19 rapidly spread through the facility in early April.

According to the suit, 1,000 of 2,800 employees at the Waterloo plant were infected.

The plant manager, according to the lawsuit, "organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for COVID-19."

Upon learning of the allegations, the company initiated its own investigation headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP to look into a possible wagering ring.

Tyson said Banks and others immediately traveled to Waterloo to meet with plant team members and community leaders "to reinforce Tyson’s commitment to them and the community." Banks said he was " very upset to learn of the behaviors found in the allegations, as we expect our leaders to treat all team members with the highest levels of respect and integrity." '

Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson visited the Waterloo plant in the spring and said that conditions were so awful that they "shook" him "to the core," according to the suit. At that time, plant workers were crowded together and few wore face coverings.

Tyson closed down the plant after the outbreak, but reopened again less than a month later.