Processing worker advocacy groups file Civil Rights complaint against Tyson and JBS


A group of organizations advocating for meat processing workers have filed a Civil Rights complaint with the USDA, accusing Tyson and JBS of racial discrimination through workplace policies.

“These corporations have received over $150 million dollars this year in taxpayer money and the USDA must investigate this injustice and act immediately to prevent any further worker illnesses and deaths,” said Brent Newell, Public Justice Food Project Senior Attorney and lead counsel for the complainants in the action filed.

The complaint says the policies adopted by the meatpacking giants did not stop the spread of COVID-19 and did not enforce proper social distancing at their facilities. The complaint alleges this had a disproportionate impact on the Black, Latino and Asian workforce at the plants.

“The Policies discriminate on the basis of race by causing a substantial adverse effect on Black, Latino, and Asian workers. In addition, publicly available facts indicate a pattern or practice of discrimination,” the complaint stated. “Existing social inequities compound this discrimination for Black and Latino workers, including higher death rates and higher hospitalization rates than white people.”

More than 40,000 meatpacking workers have tested positive for coronavirus and recent studies show about 70 percent of the workforce is Black, Latino or Asian. Tyson and JBS have a combined total of at least 12,000, according to a release from Forward Latino.

“Now is the time for our federal government to recognize that this national COVID-19 crisis is being fueled largely by policies at plants operated by these two corporations, and that the suffering and death from coronavirus borne predominantly by Black, Latino, and Asian workers results from a choice made by Tyson and JBS in pursuit of additional profit, not to ameliorate any domestic food supply issue,” the complainant groups said in a joint statement on the filing. “This suffering is one of our moment’s defining issues of racial justice, and this diverse, nationwide coalition is proud to take action today to compel the USDA to enforce our basic civil rights laws so that these facilities operate more safely, with policies that will hopefully soon be in line with an enforceable OSHA COVID-19 standard.”