Congresswoman Cindy Axne is asking for an investigation of how the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration handled a complaint about working conditions at the pork processing plant in Perry.
Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, said today it’s clear the agency’s review was “severely lacking” since the plant later was the site of a COVID-19 outbreak. Late this morning, during her daily news conference, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds said her staff has reviewed Iowa OSHA’s actions.
“It appears that they followed a normal and their appropriate process,” Reynolds said.
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, no state inspectors were sent to the Tyson plant in Perry and the case was closed nine days later following an email response from the company.
Governor Reynolds said the complaint was made on a weekend, on a federal website, and state officials handled it within five business days after getting it, as they were visiting with Tyson about outbreaks at other plants in the state.
“And actually, at the time they were talking to them, (Tyson) had already proactively made the decision to shut down the facility, do some extensive cleaning and start to implement different practices,” Reynolds said.
Congresswoman Axne has written a letter to the state Labor Commissioner, asking for answers to several questions, including what conditions in a plant would trigger an on-site inspection. The governor discussed the agency’s checklist during her news conference.
“They do have a process that they go through that determines the seriousness of the complaint and therefore how they respond to the complaint,” Reynolds said. “…They do this on a case-by-case basis.”
Congresswoman Axne said in her letter that Iowans need to be assured that issues of workplace safety will be taken seriously by state officials. On May 5th, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced more than 700 workers at Tyson’s Perry plant tested positive for COVID-19. The complaint about working conditions inside the plant was made about three weeks earlier, on April 11th.