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Racial discrimination lawsuit filed against JBS

T-R photo by Thomas Nelson A woman stands outside JBS property near a sign advising workers of COVID-19 precautions Wednesday afternoon.

An organization named Forward Latino and other groups from around the country filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against JBS and Tyson alleging racial discrimination during the COVID-19 response. 

The lawsuit was filed by the 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.

The lawsuit comes after the Centers For Disease Control released information showing a large racial disparity in people who have caught COVID-19. 

Latino people are four times more likely to have the COVID-19 than Caucasians. 

The CDC Disparity Report found that after receiving race and ethnicity data in 21 states. The report states that Hispanic and Asian workers might be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in workplace settings. However, it does not identify instances of facilities reporting adoption of the minimum 6-foot social distancing measure to protect workers on processing lines.

The lawsuit alleges JBS and Tyson’s policies violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects individuals from racial discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance.

JBS and Tyson have both received federal contracts both during and before 2020.

The lawsuits states respondents, meat processing corporations that have received over $150 million dollars in federal contracts during 2020, are engaged in racial discrimination.

“Meat processing workers, the majority of whom are Black, Latino, and Asian bear an adverse disparate impact from exposure to COVID-19 caused by Respondents’ Corporate Processing Policies that favor a processing capacity objective – the bottom line – over common-sense measures to protect workers’ health and safety,” according to the lawsuit. 

Joe Henry, Forward Latino National Vice President, has been involved with workers rights at meat packing plants during the pandemic. 

“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,” Henry said. “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.”

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