The U.S. Department of Labor has fined Smithfield Foods Inc. regarding a COVID-19 outbreak that infected almost 1,300 meatpacking employees and killed four. The fines allege that the company failed to properly protect its employees from the virus. Smithfield said it would contest the citation, a proposed $13,494 fine, which is the maximum amount allowed by law, according to the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “OSHA has been asleep at the switch throughout this pandemic and this is just the latest example of the agency failing to do their job and take responsibility for worker safety,” said Marc Perrone, president of The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant at which the outbreak occurred is one of the pork industry’s largest, with about 3,700 employees. Another large meatpacker, JBS, was also fined for failure to properly protect workers at its plant in Greeley, Colorado, where 290 employees have tested positive and six have died. Between the two meatpackers, the total fines are $29,000, so little that critics fear it will do little to incentivize the nation’s meatpackers to protect workers from additional outbreaks and deaths. Get the full story here at The Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Or here at the Washington Post (subscription required).
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