Over 500 Employees Of A Tyson Pork Processing Plant In Iowa Test Positive For Coronavirus


Iowa Tyson Foods Plant Halting Operations After 500+ Workers Test ...


Coronavirus has swept through a Tyson pork processing plant in Storm Lake, Iowa, with 555 employees of 2,517 testing positive, fueling renewed concerns over safety measures at meatpacking plants.



On Wednesday, with suspicions the plant was the site of a new outbreak, Iowa’s Department of Public Health Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said the state would only confirm outbreaks at businesses where 10% of employees test positive and only if the news media inquires about them specifically.

According to the Des Moines Register, cases in Buena Vista County more than doubled on Tuesday, and Reisetter is now confirming around 22% of the employees at the Storm Lake facility tested positive.

“We’ve determined confirming outbreaks at businesses is only necessary when the employment setting constitutes a high-risk environment for the potential of Covid-19 transmission,” Reisetter added.

On April 28, President Trump signed an executive order using the authority of the Defense Production Act to compel meat processing plants to remain open, but it hasn’t stopped facilities from shuttering to address low staffing and safety issues.

Tyson was previously forced to shut down its largest pork processing facility, located in Waterloo, Iowa, on April 22 following a number of coronavirus cases stemming from the plant, as well as worker absenteeism.

Other meatpacking facilities across the state have also been forced to address outbreaks, including plants owned by Smithfield Foods and JBS.


State lawmakers and mayors in Iowa have complained about not getting information about the ongoing situations at meatpacking facilities until it’s too late. Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott said because Tyson isn’t based in the state, they don’t need to report numbers to them. Iowa Rep. Ras Smith criticized Governor Kim Reynolds and the Department of Health’s stance on the delays in reporting numbers.


Food processing facilities have been the site of numerous outbreaks around the country, with Trump pushing for them to remain open amid fears of food shortages. Earlier in May, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the largest meatpacking workers union, derided Trump’s executive order, saying that since its signing, “The administration has failed to take the urgent action needed to enact clear and enforceable safety standards at these meatpacking plants.” There are 18,524 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Iowa. 



McLaren Health Care’s too secretive about finances, PPE, Michigan nurse union says


About McLaren Health Care

Ten nurse unions in Michigan are accusing McLaren Health Care of not being transparent about its finances and personal protective equipment supply during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the health system said it has shared some of that information.

Many of the nurse unions have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that by not sharing information with front-line healthcare workers the Grand Blanc, Mich.-based health system is violating federal labor law, a media release from the Michigan Nurses Association states.

According to the association, each of its 10 unions received a letter from the health system May 15, in which the system refused to divulge how much funding it received in federal COVID-19 grants. The health system also has refused to provide details about its protective gear inventory, the unions allege.

“The fact that they won’t share basic financial information with those of us working on the front lines makes you wonder if they have something to hide,” said Christie Serniak, a nurse at McLaren Central Michigan hospital in Mount Pleasant and president of the Michigan Nurses Association affiliate.

But the health system maintains it has been transparent and has worked with labor unions and bargaining units across the system since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve openly shared information about our operations, the challenges of restrictions on elective procedures, our plans for managing influxes of patients and our supplies of personal protective equipment,” Shela Khan Monroe, vice president of labor and employment relations at McLaren Health Care told Becker’s Hospital Review.

Ms. Khan Monroe said that the information has been shared through weekly meetings, departmental meetings and several union negotiation sessions over the last two months.

The unions also say that the health system has not offered its workers hazard pay or COVID-19 paid leave that is on par with other systems. They say that only workers who test positive for COVID-19 can take additional paid time off.

In a written statement, McLaren disputed the union’s claims about employee leave, saying that employees “dealing with child care and other COVID-related family matters” can take time off to care for loved ones.

McLaren did not specify if this time off is paid. Becker’s has reached out for clarification and will update the article once more information is available.

“We have negotiations pending with several of the unions involved in the coalition, and while we are deeply disappointed in these recent tactics, we will continue to work towards productive outcomes for all concerned,” said Ms. Khan Monroe.

Recently, a coalition of unions urged McLaren Health Care executives to reduce their own salaries before laying off employees.




UW Medicine to furlough 4,000 union employees


UW Medicine furloughing 1,500 staffers | News | dailyuw.com

UW Medicine will furlough approximately 4,000 unionized employees due to financial challenges related to COVID-19 response, the Seattle-based organization said May 25.

The furloughs will last at least one week and as many as eight weeks. Affected employees will maintain their healthcare benefits, including insurance, during the furlough.

“This has been a very difficult, but necessary, decision to address the financial challenges facing UW Medicine and all healthcare organizations responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lisa Brandenburg, president of UW Medicine Hospitals & Clinics, said in a news release. “We have taken deliberate steps to ensure patient care is not impacted by aligning staff levels with current and predicted patient volumes including the return of elective procedures, expanded in-person clinical services and continued expansion of telehealth, while ensuring UW Medicine is prepared to respond to future surges of patients with COVID-19.”

The decision comes one week after UW Medicine announced furloughs of 1,500 professional and nonunion staff members. UW Medicine said executive leaders, directors and managers are also participating in furloughs.

The actions are intended to help the organization address an anticipated $500 million loss from the pandemic.




HCA asks union to abandon wage increases this year


HCA revenue beats the hospital chain's expectations in 2019

A union representing more than 150,000 registered nurses in hundreds of U.S. hospitals is disputing with Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare regarding pay and benefits.

National Nurses United said HCA is demanding that the union choose between an undetermined number of layoffs and no 401(k) match for this year or no layoffs and no nurse pay increases for the rest of the year, according to ABC affiliate Kiii TV.

HCA Healthcare, which to date has avoided layoffs due to the pandemic, told Becker’s Hospital Review it is asking the union to give up their demand for wage increases this year, just as nonunion employees have. HCA executive leadership, corporate and division colleagues and hospital executives have also taken pay cuts.  

The union said it takes issue with having to make this choice given HCA’s profits in the last decade, the additional funding the for-profit hospital operator received from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, and additional Medicare loans.

“It is outrageous for HCA to use the cover of the pandemic to swell its massive profits at the expense of its dedicated caregivers and the patients who will also be harmed by cuts in nursing staff,” Malinda Markowitz, RN, California Nurses Association/National Nurses United president, said in a news release.

HCA pointed to the pandemic pay program it implemented and recently extended through at least the end of June that allows employees who are called off or affected by a facility closure and cannot be redeployed to receive 70 percent of their base pay.

“It is surprising and frankly disappointing that unions would demand pay raises for their members and may reject the continuation of a generous pay program that is providing continued paychecks for more the 100,000 colleagues,” HCA said in a statement. “The goal of HCA Healthcare’s pandemic pay program is to keep our caregivers employed and receiving paychecks at a time when hospitals throughout the country are experiencing significant declines in patient volume and there is not enough work for them.”

HCA said more than 16,000 union members have participated in the pandemic pay program, even though it is not part of their contract. 





Michigan Medicine accused of exploiting 1,300 resident physicians in labor dispute


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The union that represents 1,300 resident physicians at Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine said the health system is exploiting its members as both sides negotiate a new contract, according to Michigan Radio.

The University of Michigan House Officers Association and Michigan Medicine are trying to reach an agreement before the current contract expires in late June. But compensation remains a key sticking point.

Ruth Bickett-Hickok, MD, a second-year anesthesiology resident, told reporters May 18 she’s been treating COVID-19 patients and seeks a cost-of-living raise, according to Michigan Radio.

“Frankly I’m here because, for lack of a better term, Michigan [Medicine] residents right now are being exploited for their labor. Especially during this crisis,” said Dr. Bickett-Hickok, who is on the union board. She also cited her debt load for undergraduate and medical school in her reasoning for seeking a cost-of-living raise.

Overall, the union says it wants fair wages that recognize the risks physician residents have been willing to take on during the pandemic.

In a statement provided to Becker’s Hospital Review, Michigan Medicine spokesperson Mary Masson said the health system “recognizes the important role of the [union] members” and amid the pandemic “has honored the compensation package previously proposed to the HOA, which includes salary increases.”

Ms. Masson said Michigan Medicine is undergoing a $400 million expense reduction plan with furloughs and layoffs affecting about 1,400 full-time employees. Physician residents’ salaries range from $58,500 to $82,900 annually based on experience. Ms. Masson said to provide even higher salary increases, Michigan Medicine would have to eliminate additional jobs.

The union proposes that the health system use part of the university’s endowment funds to help cover the new labor deal.




AFL-CIO sues feds over coronavirus workplace safety


AFL-CIO sues feds over coronavirus workplace safety - Axios

With states reopening for business and millions of people heading back to work, the nation’s largest labor organization is demanding the federal government do more to protect workers from contracting the coronavirus on the job.

What’s happening: The AFL-CIO, a collection of 55 unions representing 12.5 million workers, says it is suing the federal agency in charge of workplace safety to compel them to create a set of emergency temporary standards for infectious diseases.

Driving the news: The lawsuit against the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expected to be filed on Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

  • Citing an urgent threat to “essential” workers and those being called back to work as government-imposed lockdowns are lifted, the AFL-CIO is asking the court to force OSHA to act within 30 days.
  • It wants a rule that would require each employer to evaluate its workplace for the risk of airborne disease transmission and to develop a comprehensive infection control plan that could include social distancing measures, masks and other personal protective equipment and employee training.

The agency has issued guidance, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to protect workers in multiple industries — including dentist offices, nursing homes, manufacturing, meat processing, airlines and retail.

  • But the unions complain these are only recommendations, not requirements, and that mandatory rules should be imposed.
  • OSHA has been considering an infectious disease standard for more than a decade, they note, and has drafted a proposed standard.

U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, in a letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, said employers are already taking steps to protect workers, and that OSHA’s industry-tailored guidelines provide more flexibility than a formal rule for all employers.

Yes, but: OSHA has received more than 3,800 safety complaints related to COVID-19 as of May 4, but it had already close to about 2,200 of them without issuing a single citation, according to the AFL-CIO.

What they’re saying: “It’s truly a sad day in America when working people must sue the organization tasked with protecting our health and safety,” Trumka said.

  • “But we’ve been left no choice. Millions are infected and nearly 90,000 have died, so it’s beyond urgent that action is taken to protect workers who risk our lives daily to respond to this public health emergency.
  • “If the Trump administration refuses to act, we must compel them to.”
  • OSHA could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit.





In front of White House, nurses read names of colleagues killed by coronavirus


Coronavirus deaths: Nurses read names at White House of colleagues ...

Registered nurses gathered Tuesday in front of the White House to read the names of health-care workers who have died fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Wearing masks and standing six feet apart, the nurses held up photographs of the deceased as Melody Jones, a member of the National Nurses United union, addressed the news media in an otherwise empty Lafayette Square.

The names came from all over the country — New York and Alabama, Puerto Rico and Nevada, California and Michigan, Florida and Maryland, New Jersey and the District.

A man in blue scrubs stood behind Jones as she read, holding a metallic gold sign painted with the message: “20 seconds won’t scrub ‘hero’ blood off your hands.”

“Let us remember and honor the ultimate sacrifice these nurses paid,” Jones said. “We commit ourselves to fight like hell for the living.”

The protest stood in stark contrast to demonstrations in recent days in some parts of the country in which protesters have demanded the reopening of nonessential businesses. Nurses have been spotted at those gatherings, too, standing arms crossed, in opposition to demonstrators, many of whom are unmasked and milling in crowds.

More than 9,000 health-care workers in the United States have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those numbers are believed to be an undercount of infections due to a lack of tests in many areas.

The nurses said Tuesday that they wanted to bring their demands for more personal protective equipment directly to President Trump’s doorstep.

Health-care providers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and rehabilitation centers have for weeks asked lawmakers and government agencies for more protective equipment to shield themselves and their vulnerable patients from the spread of covid-19.

National Nurses United last month petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to institute an emergency safety standard that would provide nurses with more protective gear, including N95 respirator masks, face shields, gowns, gloves and shoe coverings.

Health-care workers, governors and other officials have for weeks demanded that Trump enforce the Defense Production Act to order mass production of those materials. Many have also petitioned Congress to mandate Trump use his authority to help boost the production of such gear.

Last week, a protest in the shadow of the Capitol displayed the faces of health-care workers demanding better protection on 1,000 signs. The sign represented protesters that organizers said would not have been safe if gathered together on the Capitol lawn.