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Fired Tyson boss says COVID office pool was a 'morale boost'

Tyson Foods head: Food chain is breaking
Posted at 9:24 AM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 09:24:10-05

IOWA CITY, Iowa — One of the Tyson Foods managers fired for betting on how many workers would contract COVID-19 at their Iowa pork plant said the office pool was spontaneous and intended to boost morale.

Don Merschbrock, a former night manager at the plant in Waterloo, Iowa, said he was speaking out in an attempt to show that the seven fired supervisors are “not the evil people” that Tyson has portrayed.

“We really want to clear our names,” he told The Associated Press. “We actually worked very hard and took care of our team members well.”

Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson announced the terminations of the Waterloo managers on Dec. 16, weeks after the betting allegation surfaced in wrongful death lawsuits filed by the families of four workers who died of COVID-19.

Merschbrock said managers conducted the office pool last spring within minutes following mass testing of the plant’s roughly 2,800 workers.

County officials said last May that more than 1,000 workers tested positive for the virus, which hospitalized several and killed at least six. They have blasted Tyson for not initially providing workers adequate protective gear and for idling the plant only after the outbreak had ripped through the city.