Iowa OSHA visits two more meatpackers; other plants cleared with no inspection

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staff conducted on-site inspections of two more Iowa meatpacking plants this week, the Iowa Division of Labor confirmed to Bleeding Heartland on June 2.

Documents provided the following day show regulators closed at least four coronavirus-related complaints against Iowa pork processors with no inspection.

Inspectors toured the Tyson Foods turkey plant in Storm Lake and the Perdue Premium pork facility in Sioux Center on June 1. Both site visits stemmed from “media referrals” rather than complaints, meaning officials acted on unspecified news reports or information relayed to OSHA by a journalistic source.

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OSHA inspected five Iowa meatpacking plants on site

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staff have conducted five on-site inspections of Iowa meatpacking plans during the past six weeks, the Iowa Division of Labor confirmed to Bleeding Heartland on May 28.

According to Mary Montgomery, who works in the office of Iowa Labor Commissioner Rod Roberts, OSHA inspectors examined COVID-19 mitigation measures at the Tyson Fresh Meats pork processing plant in Waterloo on April 20, the Tyson plant in Columbus Junction on April 30, Iowa Premium Beef in Tama on May 21, the JBS pork plant in Marshalltown, also on May 21, and the Tyson plant in Perry on May 26.

Montgomery indicated that a complaint prompted the Waterloo inspection, while “media referrals” led to the others. Asked to define that term, Montgomery said either “news items reported in the media” or information relayed “directly to OSHA by a media source” had prompted the site visits. She did not specify which news reports or journalistic sources influenced OSHA staff.

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Theresa Greenfield is our choice to defeat Joni Ernst

Sue Dvorsky is a longtime Democratic activist and former state chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. -promoted by Laura Belin

About a year ago, when Theresa Greenfield announced she was running for U.S. Senate, my husband, retired State Senator Bob Dvorsky and I were proud to be a part of the very first group of nearly 20 Iowa Democratic leaders, elected officials and activists to endorse her. We were drawn to her story. We admired her grace under pressure. We clearly recognized the grit, humor, and work ethic.

U.S. Senate races aren’t like any other election. Statewide. Six years. The state of Iowa and the state of the world has changed so much in the last six years that I can barely recall what 2014 was like. But I do know this: it is imperative for the future of this state, and the future of our country, that we change the leadership and the membership of the United States Senate.

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Essential doesn't mean expendable

State Representative Ras Smith of Waterloo is among 20 Black Hawk County elected officials who urged Tyson Foods to suspend operations at its local pork processing plant. -promoted by Laura Belin

Across the country, we see “essential workers” as the people who keep us safe, treat the sick and injured, and maintain the systems that sustain us in difficult times. In the background, other essential workers toil in silence as they stock our shelves, clean our floors, as well as process, prepare, and serve our food. They are essential before, during, and after this crisis. 

At Tyson’s Fresh Meats in Waterloo, the employees I’ve talked to fear they’ve been placed in harm’s way, not because they are deemed essential, but because the facility has blatantly dismissed effective COVID-19 mitigation strategies that are supposed to keep them safe. Here’s what one employee noted:

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Lies, lies, and damned lies

Marty Ryan is skeptical that meatpacking companies are doing everything possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, based on two decades of experience in that business. -promoted by Laura Belin

Anyone believing that spokespersons for Iowa packing plants are doing what they say they are should talk to the employees. However, if you get two different stories, and if you want to decide who is telling the truth, place about 80 percent of the truth on the side of the worker.

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Deaths of despair in Clinton, Oelwein, and elsewhere

John Whiston reflects on several books about industrial decline and the social dislocation that has accompanied it. -promoted by Laura Belin

A friend emailed me the other day, a friend I worked with forty years ago at a plywood mill in Bonner, Montana. We pulled veneer on the green chain, very heavy repetitive work. He asked me to talk with his 30-something son, who might be having some legal problems. So, I spent about an hour in conversation with this young man.

His was familiar story, very much what I’d heard as a lawyer in Iowa for 25 years. I learned he had graduated high school with few skills. While his father and grandfather had been able to go to work at the Bonner mill with good wages, medical insurance, a pension, and a strong union, the mill had closed. He then described a few experiences that seemed to fit in a small way with a whole constellation of symptoms that I had seen in my working-class clients: unemployment, underemployment, injuries, illness, disability, substance abuse, terrible credit, family issues, run-ins with the law.

I now suspect that the underlying problem is a profound despair. Granted, not every working-class person displays this despair, but it appears in an increasing portion. Their despondency bleeds out into their families and communities and affects us all.

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