A spokesperson from Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls allegedly told a VICE reporter that “living circumstances in certain cultures” and a “large immigrant population” are to blame for the 725 cases of COVID-19 amongst staff.

Smithfield workers interviewed by the BBC beg to differ: Kaleb, an employee of 12 years, locked himself away from his children, out of fear he might pass on the virus. Neela and Ahmed — who are expecting their first child — have started living in separate bedrooms since Ahmed’s positive diagnosis.

Rather than blaming the cultures of its diverse workforce, Smithfield might like to look at its own cultural problems. These apparently include the failure to translate COVID-19 notices from English — despite workers speaking up to 80 different languages — maintaining tightly packed locker rooms, and only giving staff hairnet-style masks for their protection. The factory-floor work — cutting up pigs — allegedly required workers to stand within one foot of their co-workers. Workers are discouraged from taking breaks; some even wearing diapers on the floor.

Moving forward, let’s hope that Smithfield shows kindness to its workforce, instead of making prejudiced assumptions. And if Smithfield is serious about bettering its cultural reputation after this crisis, it should transition its business model to cruelty-free, environmentally friendly vegan meat production, for which there is ever-growing demand.

(3) comments

E pluribus

Yes, Ms. Bellamy, but the more deadly point is the Trump administrations’ “culture of death” that will spread from Midwest packing plants to everyone - not just immigrant workers.

South Dakotans think the CDC fixed the problem with Smithfield in Sioux Falls. But the Feds bypassed local authorities to provide laughably weak “suggestions,” telling Smithfield, that their "recommendations are discretionary and are not required or mandated by the CDC.”

Without adequate testing, do we really think that slap on the wrist is going to keep the virus confined to Sioux Falls?

Mmuncrief

Funny how you mention President Trump Administration....weak suggestions....hilarious bias

Larry Skow

E Pluribus: I believe you are missing Jessica's point of the letter. She is talking about bad working practices at a company. You take it to Trump's culture of death. this virus is easily passed due to certain conditions that are easy to change thus alter the spread or slow it down. Which was being advised before Smithfeild had a issue. The company done nothing for the employees protection. Testing does nothing to slow the spread. May actually be only 49% accurate. Also only means you are virus free at time of test. That it. That can change in 24 hrs. Question is where was the companies safety personal? Workers comp insurance companies usually jump on instances like this to help.. Where are they? This is a workers comp issue. OSHA only comes in after the fact. Where was South Dakotas dept of health? Fact is Your prime Gov. Noem sat at her makeup table done nothing until Mayor of Sioux Falls was going to take action with or without her an she jumped on his bandwagon. So Is Smithfeild Noem's culture of Death as you put it? Meat packing has always been bad work conditions. One may wish to read THE JUNGLE by Upton Sinclair. It has always been industry that depends on immigrant labor force has always had money to "grease the wheels" so to speak. Now I don't agree 100% with PETA's agenda. BUT her letter was a good one. One question. In light of all that is going on in Washington D.C an elsewhere. If all the men/women that gave it all to fight against tyranny/despots like Hitler an others. If they could all reappear for 24 hours to learn where we are as Nation an see the discord. What do you think their reaction would be? I believe they would be shocked to learn they gave the ultimate sacrifice for this mess! I believe you would hear a unified cry of PEOPLE WAKE THE F@#K UP! PULL YOUR HEADS OUT OF YOUR A@@.

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