Things That Matter

Smithfield Foods Uses Racist Stereotypes To Blame Migrant Workers For Covid-19 Outbreak At Its Own Processing Plants

Smithfield Foods, the meat industry giant facing mounting questions over its handling of the coronavirus crisis, repeatedly failed to protect its workforce at several processing plants scattered across the country. One of its processing plants – in South Dakota – became the country’s single largest hotspot of the Coronavirus outbreak with more than 300 workers testing positive for Covid-19.

Instead of addressing their own shortcomings and lack of protocol to address the health crisis and worker and public safety, the company decided to blame its own workforce – the majority of whom are migrant workers – for the outbreak.

The company blamed “living circumstances in certain cultures” for the outbreak at their processing plants.

Smithfield Foods, which recently had to shut down a pork production plant after more than 350 workers tested positive for COVID-19, is blaming immigrant workers for the coronavirus outbreak.

A spokesperson said “living circumstances in certain cultures” enabled the rapid spread of the disease. Employees and investigations into the outbreak, however, show Smithfield made a number of missteps in managing early signs of the outbreak, including concealing infections and compelling employees to work without protection.

“Living circumstances in certain cultures are different than they are with your traditional American family,” she explained. The spokesperson and a second corporate representative pointed to an April 13 Fox News interview in which the governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, said that “99%” of the spread of infections “wasn’t happening inside the facility” but inside workers’ homes, “because a lot of these folks who work at this plant live in the same community, the same buildings, sometimes in the same apartments.”

The South Dakota Smithfield plant that was closed now has well over 700 COVID-positive people, and those related to them, in the area, a major hot spot in the United States.

New details show how Smithfield Foods failed to take action in the crucial days before the plant turned into one of the nation’s largest coronavirus clusters.

Credit: Paul Rovern / Getty

Employees at Smithfield plants across the U.S. say that the company concealed Covid-19 infections at plants and pressured them to work elbow to elbow without protection. The company was even offering employees $500 bonuses if they didn’t miss a single day of work in the month of April.

A recent CDC report detailing measures the company should adopt to better protect its workforce also points out the plant failed to provide translations of important announcements.

The recommendations included practicing social distancing of at least six feet, installation of barriers where social distancing is not possible, the use of face coverings to mitigate the spread of respiratory droplets, providing face masks to employees and replacement face masks if those masks should become soiled.

The report also recommended secondary screening packets be translated into other languages commonly spoken in the plant to improve communication with employees.

Smithfield has a long history of mistreatment of its workforce – many of whom are in the U.S. as guest workers.

Credit: Darrel Sapp / Getty

Smithfield, which owns meat plants across the country, has a long history of worker injuries and fatalities. The company often uses foreign guest workers, many of whom have reported abusive treatment. In 2007, a number of guest workers from Thailand working in Smithfield plants reported slave-like conditions. The workers later reached a confidential settlement with Smithfield and a recruiting company called Global Horizons.

Smithfield Foods finally closed its South Dakota plant and is being forced to reevaluate its workplace conditions to protect workers and public health.

The plant is now closed indefinitely, cutting the country off from about 5% of its national pork supply. With 725 confirmed cases among workers and 143 more traced to them, the Smithfield outbreak has eclipsed most of the country’s worst-hit nursing homes and prisons among the largest community outbreaks. One Smithfield worker, 64-year-old Agustin Rodriguez, died on April 14 from COVID-19 complications.

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An Abuelo Got A Hurtful Note From Bad Neighbors About His Decorations And Latino Twitter Came Into Comfort Him

Things That Matter

An Abuelo Got A Hurtful Note From Bad Neighbors About His Decorations And Latino Twitter Came Into Comfort Him

@goldenstef / Twitter

We are rarely more defensive than we are for our abuelos. The viejitos have always been there for us and seeing them treated unkindly is just heartbreaking. That is what one Twitter user experienced after her abuelo got a wretched note about his decorations outside his home.

This is the horrid letter left for @goldenstef’s abuelo by undesirable neighbors.

The letter, which is filled with misspelled words, calls the abuelo’s house an example of a “low class Mexican family.” The letter was written anonymously by neighbors and delivered to the abuelo in an attempt to shame him into changing his decorations. One of the most bizarre moments in the letter is when the angry author criticized the homeowner for having too many American flags claiming he isn’t patriotic and can’t fool the neighbors. Like, which one is it people?

The Twitter user followed up with photos of the house to show the decorations their abuelo has out front.

People flooded the Twitter post with comments supporting and sending love to the abuelo. Fellow Latinos are ready to stand with the abuelo and some just want the names of the people behind the letter so they can talk to them. Some people are stunned at how far the author was willing to go out of their way to be mean to an old man who just wants to decorate his home and front yard.

Latino Twitter wants to come together to let the abuelo know that his decorations are adorbs.

We need to come together to give her abuelo all of the wonderful decoration we love. Let’s turn his house and front yard into a showcase of all of the greatness that Latin America has to offer.

People are falling in love with this viejitos yard.

Honestly, this is a great yard. Who wouldn’t want a yard like this? This yard is original and adorable and worth all of the praise that we can muster. Thank you to people like this for making their yards something unique and worth seeing.

@goldenstef wants everyone to know just how much they appreciate the sweet messages about their abuelo’s yard.

It costs nothing to be kind. It is even better when you can be kind about something someone clearly cares so much about. Who cares if someone decorates their lawn a little too much. At least they are having fun with their lives and that is something we all need more of right now.

READ: Latinas Are Sharing Their Most Treasured Memories Of Their Abuelos And It’s Exactly What We Needed This Month

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Peru’s Indigenous Are Turning To Ancestral Medicines To Fight The Coronavirus

Culture

Peru’s Indigenous Are Turning To Ancestral Medicines To Fight The Coronavirus

Joao Laet / Getty Images

With news headlines like “How Covid-19 could destroy indigenous communities”, it’s hard to understate the affect that the Coronavirus has had on Indigenous communities across the world.

Even before the pandemic hit, native populations were already at increased risk of health complications, poor access to medical care, lack of proper education, and even premature death. The pandemic has only exacerbated these issues as government programs and NGOs who delivered aid to far flung communities have grind to a halt.

However, many communities have started taking the matter into their own hands by creating their own impromptu healthcare systems based on ancestral techniques and others have barricaded off their villages from the outside world in an effort to stem the flow of the virus.

In Peru, many Indigenous communities are turning to centuries-old medicines to fight back against the Coronavirus.

The Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on Peru – the country with the world’s highest per capita Covid-19 mortality rate. At particular risk is the nation’s large Indigenous community, who often lack proper access to education efforts and medical care. This has forced many Indigenous groups to find their own remedies.

In the Ucayali region, government rapid response teams deployed to a handful of Indigenous communities have found infection rates as high as 80% through antibody testing. Food and medicine donations have reached only a fraction of the population. Many say the only state presence they have seen is from a group responsible for collecting bodies of the dead.

At least one community, the Indigenous Shipibo from Peru’s Amazon region, have decided to rely on the wisdom of their ancestors. With hospitals far away, doctors stretch too thin and a lack of beds, many have accepted the alternative medicine.

In a report by the Associated Press, one villager, Mery Fasabi, speaks about gathering herbs, steeping them in boiling water and instructing her loved ones to breathe in the vapors. She also makes syrups of onion and ginger to help clear congested airways.

“We had knowledge about these plants, but we didn’t know if they’d really help treat COVID,” the teacher told the AP. “With the pandemic we are discovering new things.”

One of the plants the Shipibo are using is known locally as ‘matico.’ The plant has green leaves and brightly colored flowers. And although Fasabi admits that these ancestral remedies are by no means a cure, the holistic approach is proving successful. She says that “We are giving tranquility to our patients,” through words of encouragement and physical touch.

Even before the Coronavirus, Indigenous communities were at a greater risk for infectious diseases.

Indigenous peoples around the globe tend to be at higher risk from emerging infectious diseases compared to other populations. During the H1N1 pandemic in Canada in 2009, for example, aboriginal Canadians made up 16% of admissions to hospital, despite making up 3.4% of the population.

Covid-19 is no exception. In the US, one in every 2,300 indigenous Americans has died, compared to one in 3,600 white Americans.

Indigenous groups are particularly vulnerable to dying from Covid-19 because they often live days away from professional medical help. As of July 28, the disease had killed 1,108 indigenous people and there had been 27,517 recorded cases, with the majority in Brazil, according to data published by Red Eclesial Panamazonia (Repam).

Some communities are turning inward to survive COVID-19, barricading villages and growing their own food.

Despite the immense threat they face, Indigenous communities are fighting back.

“I am amazed to see the ways that indigenous peoples are stepping up to provide support where governments have not,” Tauli-Corpuz, a teacher at Mexico’s UNAM, told The Conversation. “They are providing PPE and sanitation, making their own masks, and ensuring that information on Covid-19 is available in local languages, and are distributing food and other necessities.”

They are also choosing to isolate. In Ecuador’s Siekopai nation, about 45 Indigenous elders, adults and children traveled deep into the forest to their ancestral heartland of Lagartococha to escape exposure to the Coronavirus, says the nation’s president Justino Piaguaje.

Despite their best efforts, many experts are extremely concerned for the survival of many Indigenous communities.

Credit: Ginebra Peña / Amazonian Alliance

They are already facing the ‘tipping point’ of ecological collapse due to increased threats of deforestation, fires, industrial extraction, agribusiness expansion and climate change,” Amazon Watch executive director Leila Salazar-Lopez told UNESCO of Amazonian Indigenous groups.

“Now, the pandemic has created one more crisis, and as each day passes, the risk of ethnocide becomes more real.”

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