Smith: Making Tyson safe for workers must be first priority

The failure by bad actors in the meatpacking industry has imposed heavy costs on Iowans. Independent, ongoing health and safety reforms are essential to recovering from this economic and health care disaster.

State Senator Jackie Smith
For Immediate Release: May 1, 2020

(Sioux City) State Senator Jackie Smith of Sioux City today said that the Tyson meatpacking plant in Dakota City must be made safe before it reopens.

Senator Smith believes an independent body must oversee Tyson’s reopening, one with the power to require additional changes, including plant shutdowns, when needed.

“Tyson created this disaster by failing to protect Tyson workers,” Smith said.  “That’s why independent experts must oversee an intensive, ongoing effort to make the plant a safe place to work.” 

In conversations with workers, community leaders and public health experts, Smith said several ideas were repeatedly raised.

“One, we need thorough, repeatedly updated improvements in worker safety. Two, we must have comprehensive, on-going testing of workers, their families and their communities. Three, we need funding for the ongoing treatment and long-term health care needs of Tyson workers, their family and our communities,” said Smith.

Smith noted that the failure by bad actors in the meatpacking industry is already imposing heavy costs on Northwest Iowa.

“The meatpacking industry failures have created an unprecedent crisis for farmers across our region.  Tens of thousands of cattle and hogs may be euthanized due to this industry’s reckless disregard for the health and safety of their workers.

Smith is calling on Iowa’s state and federal leaders to act decisively. 

“Governor Kim Reynolds has repeatedly told the people of Northwest Iowa that she would fight for us,” Smith said.  “Governor Reynolds, this is your moment.  Help us make sure the Tyson plant does not reopen without fundamental changes, independent monitoring, and comprehensive testing and health care services.”

Smith also appealed to the area’s Congressional representatives. 

“Senators Ernst and Grassley, you are our community’s only functional voice in Congress,” Smith said.  “We need you to bring the power and resources of the federal government to help solve these problems.”  

Smith said the problems exposed by the Tyson outbreak won’t be solved without putting the health and safety of Iowa workers first.

“Tyson recklessly harmed hardworking Iowa men and women. Tyson’s neglect spread the virus to those workers, their families and our community,” Smith said.  “That’s why independent, ongoing health and safety reforms are essential to recovering from this economic and health care disaster.”