Buljic v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

Buljic v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

Public Justice filed an amicus brief in support of meatpacking workers who died from contracting COVID-19 at a Tyson slaughterhouse in Waterloo, Iowa (Buljic v. Tyson Foods, Inc. and Fernandez v. Tyson Foods, Inc.). The two wrongful death lawsuits were filed in Iowa state court, alleging that Tyson completely failed to protect workers from COVID-19. The company gave workers false information about the virus’s spread, failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment, and encouraged sick and symptomatic workers to remain in the workplace. Tyson managers even organized a betting pool for supervisors to wager on how many employees would test positive for COVID-19.

Tyson removed the cases from state court to federal court, arguing that the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) preempted the workers’ claims based on state workplace safety rules. The federal judge rejected Tyson’s argument and ordered the cases to go back to state court. Tyson appealed, and now the Eighth Circuit will hear the case.

Public Justice’s amicus brief supporting the workers debunks Tyson’s federal defense. The FMIA is a law intended to protect consumers from unsafe meat and has nothing to do with—let alone preempt—state workplace safety rules. Tyson’s argument thus absurdly attempts to turn a meat inspection law designed to protect consumers into a workplace safety law that protects slaughterhouses. Without a federal defense, Tyson should not be permitted to deprive the workers of the state court in which they originally brought their lawsuit.

 

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