DES MOINES, Iowa — A nationwide coalition of organizations filed an administrative civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday.
The complaint alleges that Tyson and JBS have engaged in racial discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act through their workplace policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The complaint alleges that the mega-corporations adopted policies that reject critical Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance – social distancing on meat processing lines – to stop the spread of COVID-19 at their processing facilities. It also explains that the results of their current operating procedures have a discriminatory impact on the predominantly Black, Latino, and Asian workforce at the companies’ plants.
Due to federal funding received by the companies through the federal Farm Bill nutrition program and Trade Mitigation Program contracts, this disparate impact violates federal civil rights law. The complainants ask that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Civil Rights to suspend, terminate, and refuse to provide financial assistance to these two companies based on this racial discrimination and to refer the complaint to the Department of Justice for action.
“Tyson and JBS aren’t even trying to follow CDC guidance by distancing workers on the line or slowing line speed. They’re just trying to make as much profit as quickly as they can with their predominantly black and brown workforce in the factory,” said Forward Latino National Vice President, Joe Enriquez Henry. “That’s not the case for their white collar divisions which are made up of more white or Caucasian people - they are allowed to work from home for their health and safety during this pandemic. Because these companies have received over $150 million dollars just this year in taxpayer money, the USDA must investigate this injustice and act immediately to prevent any further worker illnesses and deaths.”
The complainants in this administrative complaint are Food Chain Workers Alliance, the Rural Community Workers Alliance, the HEAL Food Alliance, Forward Latino, American Friends Service Committee – Iowa, and the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils. They are represented by Public Justice, Nichols Kaster PLLP, and Towards Justice.