November 18, 2003

Military Vets Challenge Award to Tyson Foods

Washington, DC – Veterans will protest tomorrow, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., at the U. S. Chamber of Commerce building, 1615 H Street NW, Washington D.C. They will demonstrate their disgust over Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s decision to present Tyson Foods the “”Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.”” The award is meant to recognize unique support to National Guard and Reserve employees. The veterans, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 538, will speak out on Tyson Foods’ disgraceful conduct in Jefferson, Wisconsin, where 470 workers have been on strike since February 28, 2003.

The veterans say it is working families that pay the price to defend the country and John Tyson takes the credit, just as workers produce the Tyson products and John Tyson takes all the profit.

Tyson has targeted American living and working standards with demands to lower wage scales, gut health care and cut retirement benefits. The fight in Jefferson is part of company-wide assault designed to reduce living standards for workers across the country to the level of its lowest paid employees. Tyson Foods is the giant of the meat industry and is using its power to remake the industry according to its low wage, low benefit standards.

UFCW Local 538 President Mike Rice said in a statement read by the striking veterans at the demonstration in Washington, “”We are partriots. We believe in American values. We support our brothers and sisters in the National Guard and Reserve. Returning veterans have earned our thanks and our respect. In Jefferson, Tyson Foods shows its contempt for veterans and workers with demands for wages and benefits that cannot support a family. Is this what our National Guard and Reservists are fighting for?””

Members of UFCW Local 538 went on strike because their families can’t afford what Tyson demands: a cut of $2 an hour for all new employees; a freeze in wages for current workers; the elimination of pensions for all new employees; a freeze in pension benefits for current workers; a shift in health care costs to employees making coverage unaffordable for many families and unaffordable for almost all families of new employees. There have been no negotiations between Local 538 and Tyson Foods since February.

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