GAINESVILLE, GA. — Despite accusations from a labor organization representing poultry workers, Foundation Food Group said it has not intimidated employees affected by the deadly liquid nitrogen leak on Jan. 28.
“Foundation Food Group has not taken any action to intimidate employees or limit their access to benefits in any way,” Nick Ancrum, vice president of human resources at Foundation Food Group, said in a statement. “We continue to work with all regulatory authorities and will resume operations only after all appropriate authorities have consented that it is safe to do so. The portion of the line where the incident occurred will remain shut down and locked out for the foreseeable future. Foundation Food Group will be in direct contact with employees regarding return to work dates.”
A recent letter from various community organizers including Georgia Familas Unidas, an organization of poultry plant workers, stated that injured workers had issues filing workers’ compensation claims and health care benefits with Foundation Food Group. The group said some employees were contacted about the plant reopening on Feb. 15.
“Already we have received reports of workers fearing retaliation by Foundation Food if they seek medical treatment or speak to investigators,” the letter said. “We demand that every Foundation Food worker have the opportunity to fully cooperate with any and all investigations without fear of retaliation or reprisal.”
In a recent Twitter post, Georgia Familas Unidas expressed what employees needed following the nitrogen leak.
Foundation Food Group should provide immediate support to all the workers affected by the nitrogen leak that took place on Thursday, January 28, 2021. #SupportFoundationFoodWorkers #AllEyesOnGainesville pic.twitter.com/7kFm68gP6x— GA Familias Unidas (@GaFam_org) February 18, 2021
Along with six people dying due to the liquid nitrogen leak, at least a dozen more people were hospitalized. The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has been giving regular updates in its investigation of the incident.
Another concern raised by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) was the possibility that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could be involved with further investigations by the federal government.
“ICE and its agents do not belong anywhere near a workplace safety investigation,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director for National COSH. “Every worker, regardless of immigration status, has the right to speak freely about safety problems at work. Any suggestion that workers might face arrest, deportation or any form of retaliation for giving testimony is a terrible insult to the six workers who died and their families.”