Tyson Foods’ Secret Recipe for Carving Up Workers’ Comp

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by Michael Grabell
ProPublica, Dec. 11, 2015

About five years ago, one of the nation’s largest corporations, Tyson Foods, drew a bullseye on the official who oversaw Iowa’s system for compensating injured workers.

As workers’ compensation commissioner, Chris Godfrey acted as chief judge of the courts that decided workplace injury disputes. He had annoyed Tyson with a string of rulings that, in the company’s view, expanded what employers had to cover, putting a dent in its bottom line.

So when Republican Terry Branstad ran for governor in 2010, vowing to make Iowa more business-friendly, Tyson hosted an event for him at its headquarters and arranged another meeting for him to hear from large companies who were frustrated with the workers’ comp commission.

Within weeks of his victory, Branstad demanded Godfrey’s resignation. When Godfrey refused, the new governor did the harshest thing in his power: He cut Godfrey’s salary by more than 30 percent.

Amid the fallout, Tyson drafted and hand-delivered 14 pages of talking points criticizing Godfrey to help Branstad defend his decision.

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