A federal judge in Missouri dismissed a lawsuit brought against Smithfield by workers in one of its Missouri packing facilities who accused the company of failing to protect them from COVID-19. Judge David Gregory Kays of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri ruled that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has jurisdiction over the matter, according to Bloomberg Law.
Kays said that while he took the workers’ concern for their health and safety seriously, the court couldn’t ignore the authority of OSHA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over coronavirus safety guidance at meat processing plants or “the significant steps Smithfield has taken to reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Plant.”
According to Bloomberg, the Rural Community Workers Alliance, which represents the workers, sought an order to force the company to comply with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state public health officials, as well as other worker protection requirements.
“While we disagree that Smithfield has implemented sufficient changes to address workers’ concerns and protect their safety, any changes that have been implemented are the result of the courageous workers who came forward to demand better from the company,” David Muraskin, litigation director for the Public Justice Food Project and counsel for the workers, said in a May 5 statement, Bloomberg notes.
“Their unprecedented stand for workplace safety has resonated across the entire meat packing industry,” Muraskin said.
The suit was filed on April 24, and a day later the court said that Smithfield was already under an OSHA investigation where it had to submit safety-related documents to the agency. It also ordered the company to follow OSHA requirements and guidance from the CDC and other public authorities, until the court ruled on an injunction, Bloomberg says.
Related on Farm Journal's PORK: