One in seven Tyson food managers fired for betting on the number of employees at the company’s largest facility who tested positive for coronavirus has defended the measures as a “morale boost”.
Don Merschbrock, a former plant manager in Waterloo, Iowa, spoke to the Associated Press with the aim of “clearing their names” and demonstrating that the managers are “not the bad people” the company portrays.
The pork factory’s handful of top managers were laid off earlier this month after an independent investigation confirmed allegations that they had bet on how many workers would contract the disease.
The allegations surfaced in death suits filed by family members of workers who died at the factory during an outbreak that allegedly infected more than 1,000 people. At least six people died.
Mr. Merschbrock, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuits, informed the sales outlet that the managers had carried out the office pool last spring in the minutes after the mass tests of around 2,800 employees at the plant.
The office pool consisted of roughly $ 50 in cash, which was then given to the winner, who picked the right percentage of workers who tested positive for the virus, Merschbrock said.
“It was a group of exhausted bosses who worked so hard and cleverly to solve many unsolvable problems,” he told AP.
“It was just something fun, some kind of morale boost, an incredible effort to have made. There was never any malicious intent. It was never meant to belittle anyone.”
Mel Orchard, an attorney who represents families of deceased employees, disproved the idea that protecting workers from the virus was “an insoluble problem”.
The lawyers of four of the deceased workers portrayed the betting pool as an expression of the company’s apathetic attitude towards health and safety.
“When I hear the stories of those who have lost a father, brother or wife, I find it hard to sympathize with the managers who worked extra hours and were tired,” he said.
“But I understand why and how that could have happened.”
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder led the investigation into the betting pool’s allegations after the company received significant public backlash following allegations in the lawsuit.
The company did not publish the results of the report and the managers complained that they were fired without explanation.
Mr. Merschbrock told AP that those involved in the pool did not believe it was against company policy and that the positive test rate would be lowered due to mitigation efforts.
A Tyson spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Merschbhrock’s allegations when contacted by AP.
Associated Press coverage