Workers at a Lackawanna County meatpacking plant say the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is not protecting them from COVID-19 dangers.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg last week, three employees of Dunmore-based Maid-Rite Specialty Foods say the company failed to “take basic precautions to protect workers from the spread of COVID-19 at the Plant.”
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“Instead, perhaps in an effort to reduce its costs,” the complaint alleges, “Maid-Rite has adopted policies and practices that substantially increase the risks of spread of disease.”
Maid-Rite, according to the complaint, produces preportioned frozen meat products for schools, universities, nursing homes, and military bases. The company, founded in Scranton in 1960, has contracts with school districts in Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and Texas.
The complaint, filed by the Philadelphia nonprofit Justice at Work on behalf of the three employees, alleges Maid-Rite failed to provide cloth face coverings and did not reconfigure or slow down its production line to help provide adequate social distancing. The complaint does not say if any workers contracted COVID-19. Lackawanna County has seen 1,885 confirmed cases and 212 deaths since the pandemic began.
OSHA, the complaint alleges, knew about this issue because an employee filed a complaint in April. Additional complaints were filed in May. Those workers repeatedly contacted OSHA to inquire about any potential investigation into their claims.
“I’m scared to go to work everyday. I’m risking my life,” the employee wrote in April.
OSHA representatives did not respond to requests for comment, but Maid-Rite, through a spokesperson, denied the allegations in a statement:
“Maid-Rite vehemently disagrees with this lawsuit, which was filed by special interest groups focused on their own agendas. Sadly, we have become caught up in the middle and are now collateral damage because of their unfounded and blatantly false allegations against our company.”