- Tyson workers are on strike in Van Buren, Arkansas, at a poultry processing facility set to close in May. Last month, the meat giant announced its plans to shutter the plant, which will result in the loss of roughly 1,000 non-union jobs.
- Ahead of the closure, employees are demanding a severance payment for production floor workers, full payment of unused vacation time, compensation for injury claims and fair working conditions, Venceremos, a human rights group representing poultry workers, told Food Dive.
- The strike is the latest sign that labor activity in the food and beverage sector will likely continue as companies work to revamp their supply chains to enhance productivity and earnings.
Many of the workers striking contend they are not getting the proper pay for the dangerous manufacturing work they do with the plant set to close, Venceremos said in a statement.
Tyson has previously said the closure of the poultry plant in Van Buren — along with another facility being shuttered in Glen Allen, Virginia, that’s impacting 700 workers — will boost its poultry business by optimizing its operations and streamlining its supply chain. The meat and poultry giant said it would provide compensation for workers to transfer to another location.
Magaly Licolli, executive director of Venceremos which helped organize the Arkansas protest, told Food Dive the company is offering Van Buren employees $15,000 to relocate to a facility in Texas. The money would be paid out over two years. Licolli said many workers are reluctant to relocate because they believe the compensation is not enough to uproot their lives from Arkansas.
The injury compensation claims workers are requesting stem from when they were hurt or got sick on the job at the plant, including during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 when many Tyson employees fell ill, Licolli said. Most of the workers are non-union people of color, she claimed. They are not expected to receive a severance, unlike Tyson’s corporate employees, who are mostly White.
Licolli added that many of the workers didn’t sign the company’s worker’s compensation insurance agreements because the company “kept intimidating them not to file those claims.”
A petition signed by 300 employees detailing their collective demands was delivered to Tyson employees Tuesday.
“We’re working closely with state and local officials, including the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services and others, to connect all team members who choose not to relocate with resources available to them in their local community, including coordinating an upcoming job fair with more than 40 potential employers,” Derek Burleson, Tyson’s spokesperson, said in an emailed response to Food Dive.
The meat and poultry processor is offering the Van Buren employees a $1,000 bonus to stay on until the plant closes, and unused vacation time will be paid back in full, Burleson added.