Workers say COVID-19 safety protections came too late at Washington state meat-packing plant

The Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Wallula, WA. (Greg Lehman / Walla Walla Union-Bulletin).

For some essential workers, the flurry of government guidelines being issued to protect them against COVID-19 weren’t implemented in time to prevent workplace outbreaks.

That’s the case at the Tyson Fresh Meats packing plant in Wallula, Washington, according to the Seattle Times.

In mid-March, as COVID-19 infections swept across the US and millions of employees were shifting to remote work or taking time off, the workers at the Wallula Tyson plant kept coming into work in the absence of the strict coronavirus safety protections that have come to be the norm in such facilities.

It wasn’t until April that the plant required workers to wear face masks and install plexiglass separating them on the factory floor and in dining areas, employees told the Seattle Times. During that time, the virus had spread to about 100 workers and their families, forcing many more into stay-at-home quarantine. The plant’s first coronavirus-related fatality came last week, when a longtime employee, 60-year-old J. Guadalupe Olivera Mendoza, died.

Mendoza’s daughter, Nancy Olivera, told the Seattle Times that she texted her father in mid-March before he had fallen deathly ill and asked what precautions were in place.

“There was nothing. It was business as usual,” she said.

Olivera told the Seattle Times she wished that Tyson had required safety protections like masks much earlier in the pandemic.

“This is too late, ” she said.

If your employer hasn’t taken the necessary steps to accommodate your situation or ensure your safety, call Emery Reddy. You won’t get better advice.

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