Tyson Gambles on Employees’ Lives… and why it should come as no surprise

Angela Kaufman
3 min readDec 9, 2020

In late November 2020, news broke that a lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of employees of Tyson Foods’ slaughterhouse alleged that managers of this giant corporation placed bets on how many workers would contract COVID 19, a virus that has not only caused havoc worldwide, but has been particularly rampant in slaughterhouses.

Both the ravages of COVID and the impact on slaughterhouse workers in particular should come as no surprise to anyone who has peeled back the curtain to peek at the horrors of this industry. Steady de-regulation in the United States spanning decades and both Republican and Democrat administrations, has resulted in chain speeds drastically increasing. This means that upwards of 1300 pigs per hour are slaughtered at the average slaughterhouse.

Inspection, in this industry, is a joke. As are any semblance of safety precautions. Put bluntly, there is no way for employees who are packed in shoulder to shoulder and slaughtering over 1300 animals per hour, to operate with caution. Not only are repetitive motion injuries common, but so are cuts, injuries and neurological disorders, the result of a modern practice of aerosolizing pig brains and other body parts.

It is suspected that a combination of crowding and this spread of aerosols are partly to blame for creating high levels of contagion of COVID in this industry. Anti-racist activists have rightfully called attention to the disproportionate number of Black, Indigenous and People of Color killed by this virus that others with greater social privilege have managed to avoid or more easily survived.

Since the early 20th century, when Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, the expose of immigrant worker exploitation in the slaughter industry, what little has changed in terms of reform have eroded as the pendulum has swung back in the direction of corporate power and worker casualties. One thing that has remained consistent, these corporations knowingly recruit the most desperate, marginalized and exploited members of the community to staff their deadliest jobs. The intentional employment of undocumented people, and the leveraging of their unprotected place in our society has been used by companies like Tyson, to ensure a steady flow of cheap labor and to weaken…

Angela Kaufman

Angela Kaufman is the author of Queen Up! Reclaim Your Crown When Life Knocks You Down. Her new novel Quiet Man, is available now through Trash Panda Press.