Business

Tyson, other meatpacking companies, focus of House report

House lawmakers released a report Thursday that accuses Tyson and other meatpacking companies of lobbying the USDA against health restrictions and seeking to avoid legal liability while COVID-19 spread among workers. Follow this link to read the full report.The report from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis claims the lobbying efforts “led to policies, guidance, and an executive order that, individually and all together, forced meatpacking workers to continue working despite health risks and allowed companies to avoid taking precautions to protect workers from the coronavirus, ultimately contributing to thousands of worker infections and hundreds of worker deaths.” LobbyingThe report claims that in March and April 2020, Tyson and other companies lobbied the USDA and White House to discourage workers from staying home or quitting. CEOs directly spoke with the Secretary of Agriculture and other officials to ensure that workers were told that if they left their jobs out of worries about the COVID-19 pandemic, they would not receive benefits.A spokesperson with Tyson declined a request from sister station 40/29 News for an interview. He sent a statement from the company, saying Tyson collaborates with many different federal, state and local officials on pandemic issues. This includes both the Trump and Biden administrations.The statement says Tyson became one of the first fully-vaccinated workforces in the country last year. and that the health and safety of its workers are the company’s top priority.Protein SupplyAccording to the report, Tyson and other companies compiled information on their plant operations to convince the USDA that oversight by local health departments and positive COVID-19 test results put the nation’s protein supply in danger.Tyson and Smithfield publicly stated that reduced operations due to plant closings or absent workers would cause a shortage of meat.The House report states that despite a brief slowdown in production in spring 2020, there was enough pork in cold storage to supply grocery stores for more than a year.Executive OrderAt the same time, the companies lobbied for legal protection against possible lawsuits over workplace conditions during the pandemic, the report states.Tyson wrote a draft executive order on April 13, 2020, that it believed would protect it and other meat companies from liability. The industry then used backchannels to lobby the White House to have President Donald Trump sign the order. Those lobbying efforts included phone calls between Tyson executives, including CEO Neil White, and administration officials.Trump signed a final version of the executive order on April 28, 2020. Follow this link to read the order.Industry Response”Meatpacking companies knew the risk posed by the coronavirus to their workers and knew it wasn’t a risk that the country needed them to take,” the report states. “They nonetheless lobbied aggressively — successfully enlisting USDA as a close collaborator in their efforts — to keep workers on the job in unsafe conditions, to ensure state and local health authorities were powerless to mandate otherwise and to be protected against legal liability from the harms that would result.”A statement released by the lobbying group North American Meat Institute claims the subcommittee’s report cherry picks data to create a false narrative about the industry.”The report ignores the rigorous and comprehensive measures companies enacted to protect employees and support their critical infrastructure workers,” according to the statement.The report states that 59,000 workers at Tyson, JBS, Smithfield, Cargill, and National Beef caught COVID-19 in 2020 and 269 died.Tyson reported a net income of about $2 billion in 2020 and $3 billion in 2021. In an email cited in the report, a meatpacking lobbyist asked a Tyson lobbyist if it was wise to publicly support a tax break for meatpacking corporations, given the high profit margins.Watch the video above for the full story.

House lawmakers released a report Thursday that accuses Tyson and other meatpacking companies of lobbying the USDA against health restrictions and seeking to avoid legal liability while COVID-19 spread among workers. Follow this link to read the full report.

The report from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis claims the lobbying efforts “led to policies, guidance, and an executive order that, individually and all together, forced meatpacking workers to continue working despite health risks and allowed companies to avoid taking precautions to protect workers from the coronavirus, ultimately contributing to thousands of worker infections and hundreds of worker deaths.”

Lobbying

The report claims that in March and April 2020, Tyson and other companies lobbied the USDA and White House to discourage workers from staying home or quitting. CEOs directly spoke with the Secretary of Agriculture and other officials to ensure that workers were told that if they left their jobs out of worries about the COVID-19 pandemic, they would not receive benefits.

A spokesperson with Tyson declined a request from sister station 40/29 News for an interview. He sent a statement from the company, saying Tyson collaborates with many different federal, state and local officials on pandemic issues. This includes both the Trump and Biden administrations.

The statement says Tyson became one of the first fully-vaccinated workforces in the country last year. and that the health and safety of its workers are the company’s top priority.

Protein Supply

According to the report, Tyson and other companies compiled information on their plant operations to convince the USDA that oversight by local health departments and positive COVID-19 test results put the nation’s protein supply in danger.

Tyson and Smithfield publicly stated that reduced operations due to plant closings or absent workers would cause a shortage of meat.

The House report states that despite a brief slowdown in production in spring 2020, there was enough pork in cold storage to supply grocery stores for more than a year.

Executive Order

At the same time, the companies lobbied for legal protection against possible lawsuits over workplace conditions during the pandemic, the report states.

Tyson wrote a draft executive order on April 13, 2020, that it believed would protect it and other meat companies from liability. The industry then used backchannels to lobby the White House to have President Donald Trump sign the order. Those lobbying efforts included phone calls between Tyson executives, including CEO Neil White, and administration officials.

Trump signed a final version of the executive order on April 28, 2020. Follow this link to read the order.

Industry Response

“Meatpacking companies knew the risk posed by the coronavirus to their workers and knew it wasn’t a risk that the country needed them to take,” the report states. “They nonetheless lobbied aggressively — successfully enlisting USDA as a close collaborator in their efforts — to keep workers on the job in unsafe conditions, to ensure state and local health authorities were powerless to mandate otherwise and to be protected against legal liability from the harms that would result.”

A statement released by the lobbying group North American Meat Institute claims the subcommittee’s report cherry picks data to create a false narrative about the industry.

“The report ignores the rigorous and comprehensive measures companies enacted to protect employees and support their critical infrastructure workers,” according to the statement.

The report states that 59,000 workers at Tyson, JBS, Smithfield, Cargill, and National Beef caught COVID-19 in 2020 and 269 died.

Tyson reported a net income of about $2 billion in 2020 and $3 billion in 2021. In an email cited in the report, a meatpacking lobbyist asked a Tyson lobbyist if it was wise to publicly support a tax break for meatpacking corporations, given the high profit margins.

Watch the video above for the full story.

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