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USA: Worker & NGO sue Smithfield Food requesting injunction to force company to comply with public health guidelines

"Workers Sue Smithfield Foods, Allege Conditions Put Them At Risk For COVID-19," 24 Apr 2020

Smithfield Foods, one of the biggest meat producers in the country, is operating its plant in Milan, Mo., "in a manner that contributies" to the spread of the coronavirus, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Kansas City.

The suit, brought by a plant worker identified as Jane Doe and by a nonprofit that advocates for plant workers, accuses Smithfield of failing to provide workers with sufficient protective equipment; forcing them to work shoulder to shoulder; giving them insufficient opportunities to wash their hands; discouraging them from taking sick leave; and failing to implement a plan for testing and contact tracing...

Smithfield's South Dakota plant, which handles 5% of U.S. pork production, has become a coronavirus hot spot, with 783 workers testing positive for the virus so far and two of them dying. The first worker there tested positive for the virus on March 24, but the plant was not closed until April 14.

Smithfield also shut down its plants in Martin City, Mo., and Cudahy, Wis., last week because they rely on raw materials from the South Dakota plant, according to a Smithfield press release...

In a statement, Keira Lombardo, executive vice president of corporate affairs and compliance for Smithfield Foods, said the company does not comment on pending litigation but then said: "The health and safety of our employees is our top priority at all times. The allegations contained in the complaint are without factual or legal merit and include claims previously made against the company that have been investigated and determined to be unfounded. We look forward to aggressively defending the company in court."...

The lawsuit doesn't seek money damages. Rather, it asks for an injunction to force Smithfield to comply with Centers for Disease Control and public health guidelines.

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