"They Need Someone To Work": Notorious Topeka Frito-Lay Plant Now Has Covid Outbreak

As the strike continues, the workers who remain in the plant are facing a pandemic resurgence

A notice posted for Frito-Lay workers in Topeka, Kansas—where a strike is into its second week—shows that the beleaguered factory is now dealing with a Covid outbreak.

According to Senior Site Director Sam Rice and HR Manager Michael Jacobs, at least 10 people of the remaining non-union and temp staffers working in the plant have already tested positive.

“Positive employees have come from all different areas of the plant,” the notice reads, “meaning this is more of a community issue than a plant issue, however, it is only a matter of time before this becomes a plant issue.”

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Read more on the strike

Not what you want

Current and former staffers I spoke to at Frito-Lay told me that the total workforce during the strike is around 300 people and guessed that with quarantines the plant will be at around 250-260 workers.

The prior protocols don’t inspire a lot of confidence.

“Probably at least 30 people they put on leave but when we were still there during Covid they only put a couple people on leave that was around a positive person,” one plant worker told me. “So let’s say I was by a positive person and three other people where too. They would pick and choose who they wanted to send home. So they would send home the three people home and keep me at work.”

“The main reason is they don’t want to send home everyone because they need someone to work and get the chips out,” the worker added.

The notice allows for people who are fully vaccinated to continue to work without masks—but requires them to provide proof of their vaccination status.

If workers test positive, they now only need to provide one negative tests, not two, the notice says.

Despite the need to quarantine, the plant is only providing 10 days of pay for those who have to take time off. That pay only applies to normal workdays, not the forced overtime the Topeka plant has become notorious for in recent weeks.

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