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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Here’s How You Can Help Daunte Wright’s Family After He Was Killed By Police

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Here’s How You Can Help Daunte Wright’s Family After He Was Killed By Police

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Police have taken another Black man’s life, this time it’s 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Protests have broken out in cities across the country as the nation reacts to the killing of yet another young Black man.

But as the nation reacts to the murder, Wright’s family – his mother and child – need all the support they can get right now and thankfully there are many ways that we can all be better allies while helping support the family that Wright leaves behind.

Daunte Wright is the third high-profile police murder in Minneapolis.

Daunte Wright was driving to his older brother’s house with his girlfriend on Sunday afternoon, when police pulled him over for expired tags. Police said they found an existing warrant for Wright’s arrest and attempted to handcuff him.

Bodycam footage revealed Officer Kim Potter shot Wright when she claimed to be reaching for her taser. He died on the scene, just 10 miles from where former police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the death of George Floyd.

According to CNN, Daunte’s death is at least the third high-profile death of a Black man at the hands of police in Minnesota in the last five years. And Daunte Wright’s death comes less than a year after the police killing of George Floyd, which sparked protests around the world.

Daunte Wright leaves behind a family still struggling with such an immense loss.

Daunte’s mother, Katie Wright, spoke out about the fear he experienced before his death. Daunte called her after the police pulled him over, at the suggestion of his older brother. “I know my son was scared. He’s afraid of the police, and I just seen and heard the fear in his voice. But I don’t know why, and it should have never escalated the way it did,” Katie told Good Morning America on April 13.

According to Katie, Daunte believed he was getting pulled over for his hanging air fresheners, then she heard “scuffling” and an officer told him to hang up the phone. “I tried to call back three, four times and the girl that was with him answered the phone and she said that they shot him and he was lying in the driver’s seat unresponsive.”

If you’d like to help support Daunte’s family and demand justice, below are a few resources and action items:

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Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

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Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

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Students at a high school in Aledo, Texas are being disciplined after the administration discovered they held a mock slave auction on Snapchat where they “traded” Black students.

Screenshots of the Snapchat group show that these unnamed students “bid” on students of color, ranging anywhere from $1 to $100.

One student in particular was priced at $1 because his hair was “bad”. The screenshot also shows that the group chat’s name changed regularly. The group’s name started as “Slave Trade” then changed to “N—-r Farm”, and finally to “N—– Auction”.

Upon learning of the mock slave auction, the Daniel Ninth Grade Campus’s principal wrote a note to parents explaining the situation. Principal Carolyn Ansley called the mock slave auction “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment” which “led to conversations about how inappropriate and hurtful language can have a profound and lasting impact” on people.

Many people felt that the school principal downplayed the gravity of the mock slave auction. Not once did she mention the word racism in the letter that she sent out to parents.

“Calling it cyberbullying rather than calling it racism… that is the piece that really gets under my skin,” said Mark Grubbs, father to three former Aledo ISD students, to NBC DFW. But Grubbs, along with many other Aledo parents and community members, say that the incident didn’t surprise them.

In fact, Grubbs said he had to take his children out of the Aledo ISD school system because of how much racist harassment his children were facing. “A lot of racism,” he said of his son’s experience at the school. “My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter.”

After the backlash to the initial statement, Superintendent Susan Bohn finally released a statement condemning the racism and “hatred” of the mock slave auction.

“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,’ Bohn wrote. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”

The problem with “policies” like these is they fail to target the issue of racism at the root. Hate speech may be “prohibited”, but if a child is displaying racist behavior for whatever reason, the bigger problem is the way that they have been educated and indoctrinated. Slave auctions have no place in 2021.

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