Tyson employees' coronavirus cases draw advocates' criticism

An estimated 8,500 Tyson employees reportedly have tested positive for the virus

A total of 122 food justice, labor rights, animal welfare and environmental justice groups wrote a stern letter to Tyson Foods investors demanding the company be made accountable and protect its workers at its chicken, pork and beef processing facilities nationwide from the coronavirus.

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"The situation has never been more dire; meatpacking workers are risking their lives just by going to work under unsafe conditions," they wrote in their letter.

The letter continued: “Tyson’s failure to properly protect its workforce from the spread of this deadly virus is a prime illustration of how little the company prioritizes the very employees it considers essential, in spite of its aggressive media efforts to portray the opposite. Therefore, we encourage you, as a shareholder in Tyson Foods, to urge Tyson to advance the following measures across all of its meatpacking facilities to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its workers.”

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It’s estimated 8,500 employees at 37 poultry, pork and beef plants in seven states reportedly have tested positive for the virus. More than 25 Tyson workers have died from the virus.

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TSNTYSON FOODS INC.64.53+2.10+3.36%

The letter's writers want Tyson Foods to provide PPE, offer paid sick leave, start testing at plant sites and create proper protocols of social distancing for workers in the factories.

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The letter was sent to the 10 largest investors in Tyson Foods Inc.: T. Rowe Price Associates Inc.; The Vanguard Group Inc.; BlackRock Fund Advisors; SsgA Funds Management Inc. (aka State Street Global Advisors); Aristotle Capital Management LLC; AQR Capital Management LLC; LSV Asset Management; Geode Capital Management LLC; Northern Trust Investments, Inc; and Columbia Management Investment Advisers, LLC.

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Meat exports grew significantly throughout the first three months of the year despite the fact that dozens of U.S. meatpacking plants closed temporarily after outbreaks of the coronavirus among their workers. Chicken exports grew by 8 percent in the first quarter. And the U.S. Meat Export Federation trade group said pork exports jumped 40 percent and beef exports grew 9 percent during the first three months of the year.

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