Smithfield sued over working conditions at Missouri plant

Published: Apr. 24, 2020 at 7:18 PM EDT
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A lawsuit filed on behalf of workers at a Smithfield Food plant in Missouri claims conditions at the plant are putting workers and the public at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday by an advocacy group and an unidentified worker, claims among other things that Smithfield has not provided employees at its plant in Milan with sufficient protective equipment and requires them to work shoulder to shoulder. It also contends that workers are discouraged from taking sick leave.

“Put simply, workers, their family members, and many others who live in Milan and in the broader community may die — all because Smithfield refused to change its practices in the face of this pandemic,” according to the lawsuit.

The group involved in the lawsuit, the Rural Workers Community Alliance, is a nonprofit that advocates for workers in northern Missouri, including at the Milan plant.

Smithfield has faced complaints about working conditions at other plants and closed a plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after about 800 workers tested positive for the virus. Other large meat processing companies, such as Tyson Foods and JBS, have closed plants because of infections among workers.

Smithfield, based in Virginia, closed its plants in Martin City, Missouri, and Cudahy, Wisconsin, last week because they rely on raw materials from the South Dakota plant.

Smithfield spokeswoman Keira Lombardo said the allegations in the lawsuit involving the Milan plant are “without factual or legal merit." She said some of the claims have already been investigated and determined to be unfounded, KCUR reported.

The lawsuit doesn’t seek monetary damages but is asking for an injunction to force Smithfield to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health guidelines.

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