The U.S. Department of Labor has fined two meatpacking companies, which are worth billion dollars each, with $15,615 and $13,494 after 10 of their workers passed away due to coronavirus earlier this year.
As stated by the Food & Environment Reporting Network, six workers of the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colo., and four laborers of Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls, S.D. died from coronavirus. Over 300 people of the Greeley plant and about 1,300 of the Sioux Falls location caught the virus.
JBS, the Brazilian-headquartered, the world's largest meatpacking company, was issued a $15,615-worth fine based on an inspection in Greeley on May 2020, while after the spring inspection, Smithfield was penalized $13,494, Ny Daily News reported.
Last year, the world's largest meatpacking company reported a $1.5 billion net income. The federal fine charged to the company is only comparable to about 0.001% of the reported income. On the other hand, Smithfield claimed a trifling $183.8 million net income last year. Their charge was equivalent to 0.007% of their reported 2019 income.
In a statement by union leader Kim Cordova, whose local stand for around 3,000 JBS plant workers, a $15,000 fine from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was no big deal to a company like JBS, which earns more than a billion, adding that the penalty only provoked the company to carry on endangering its laborers. Cordova articulated several of the families of those who died from coronavirus were still battling to conquer the disastrous consequences from the negligence and inaction of JBS.
The Department of Labor stated that the fines issued on the companies were the maximum allowed by the law. It has been cited by the OSHA that both companies failed to safeguard their employees from coronavirus exposure and Smithfield has not done enough ahead of the company's first recognized coronavirus infections at the plant on March 23, like practicing social distancing among workers or providing face masks and physical barriers.
According to Politico, the OSHA's guidance presents the steps each employer must take to protect their workers in this time of the pandemic, which has taken more than 191,000 American lives. Those include physical barriers, social distancing, face coverings, and face shield, together with communicated safety warnings in a language that could be understood by company workers.
In a news release, Sheila Stanley, OSHA Sioux Falls Area Director, articulated employers were required to quickly implement proper measures to protect their employees' health and safety, adding that employers must meet their responsibility and take necessary measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus at their workplaces.
In a statement by Keira Lombardo, executive vice president of corporate affairs and compliance of Smithfield, the company has taken extraordinary measures on their own initiative to protect their employees' health and safety in order for them to fulfill the company's obligation to the American people to sustain food supply, continuing that Smithfield has incurred additional Covid-19 related expenses amounting to $350 million during that second quarter alone. And added that OSHA used what Smithfield has done as an April 26 guidance model.
Both JBS and Smithfield found fault with the fines and stated they plan to oppose them.