News and Updates
September 10, 2012
$32 million Settlement Ends 12-year Legal Battle to Get Paid for Hours Worked
(Washington, D.C.) – After a 12 year legal struggle, more than 12,000 Tyson poultry workers in 41 plants in 12 states will receive their payments from the largest settlement against a major poultry company at $32 million. Thanks to the tenacity and dedication of thousands of workers from across the country and the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, workers involved in the suit will receive payments averaging $1,200 in lost wages.
The success of the Tyson’s settlement for poultry workers is just one in a series of actions where workers continue to fight and take a stand for workers’ rights in poultry and meatpacking plants around the country. Similar cases have been brought and resolved against Perdue and Pilgrim’s Pride plants as well. The UFCW continues to work to make sure that every meatpacking and poultry worker is paid honestly and fairly for the work they do. A suit that was filed in 1999 was the first action of its kind to force poultry companies to obey the nation’s basic wage and hour laws.
“This lawsuit and the new pay practices in the meatpacking and poultry industry are just one way union workers raise standards for every worker in their industry,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “While this settlement is long overdue, our efforts have ensured that thousands of workers have been paid correctly for years now.”
The affected Tyson poultry employees work at plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
These payments will inject much-needed money into America’s rural economy and reward a hard-working and dedicated group of poultry workers.
The lawsuit charged Tyson with violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and cheating their poultry plant employees out of wages by failing to pay workers for the time they spend putting on and taking off protective gear they wear to keep the food they process safe and for their own protection. The poultry company also violated the basic wage and hour laws by failing to provide workers with their required break time.
“Every American deserves to get paid for the work they do,” Hansen continued. “We’re changing the way meat and poultry industries do business by ensuring that workers are paid for all of their time on the job.”
Workers, the UFCW, and activists started to take collective action for workers’ rights to fair wages and treatment at the workplace in 1999. Between 1999 and 2001, they took their action on the road and spread the word of their mission through a bus tour and leafleting other Tyson workers. In that brief time, almost 4,000 workers signed up to join. The federal lawsuit developed following a U.S. Department of Labor survey that found over 60 percent of the nation’s poultry companies were in violation of basic wage and hour laws.
The collective case representing the workers from several plants from across the country went through several judges until a judge in November 2006 declared that the case under the different plants could not be presented as a singular case and dismissed it. The workers and their supporters continued their legal action despite the large setback and filed their cases on a plant-by-plant basis. More than 17,000 workers start signing up to join the suit under the new case conditions.
In September 2011, the workers sent a settlement agreement to the court, which the court later approved. After almost 12 years, workers receive notice in January 2012 that they will finally be receiving their settlement payments.
In order to qualify for the settlement, current workers must have signed up to be part of the lawsuit back in 2008 and former employees were required to send back the W-4 form included with the payment notice, so that tax withholdings could be properly calculated.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.
November 24, 2009
Dakota Dunes, S.D. – The nation’s leading meat processor and the country’s largest union representing meatpacking and food processing workers have just completed the 20th year of a workplace ergonomics program that is making meat processing jobs safer.
The ground-breaking program initiated by Tyson Fresh Meats, formerly known as IBP, and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, has involved workplace improvements that have helped reduce worker injuries and illnesses, such as strains and sprains.
Ergonomics, which is the science of designing the workplace to fit the worker, had not been extensively used in the meat industry until the company and union reached an agreement after an historic OSHA citation and settlement in late November 1988 followed up with the joint Tyson-UFCW program to develop a comprehensive ergonomics research program.
The program got underway in early 1989, with the company’s Dakota City, Nebraska, beef complex serving as the pilot plant, and production workers represented by UFCW Local 222, were actively involved. Due to the success of the pilot, the program was quickly expanded to all of the company’s beef and pork plants.
Some of the key elements of the program include ongoing ergonomics training for production workers; the involvement of hourly workers as ‘ergonomic monitors;’worksite analysis and the redesign of work stations and equipment; and a medical management program focused on early detection and treatment of workplace injuries and illnesses.
Tyson and UFCW leaders believe the program has made a difference. For example, the OSHA recordable injury and illness rate at the Dakota City plant is currently running 67 percent below the rate recorded in 1991. Meanwhile, the current rate of injuries and illnesses at Dakota City requiring the involvement of a physician is 73 percent below 1991 levels.
“Over the past 20 years, our company has devoted millions of dollars in ergonomically designed equipment and process improvements, as well as training, which we believe have helped prevent workplace injuries and illnesses,” said Jim Lochner, chief operating officer of Tyson Foods. “However, the real key to the success of this program has been the workers who serve as safety and ergonomics monitors. The input we’ve received from hourly production workers and the participation of our plant and corporate management teams, have been invaluable.”
“What this program shows is that when workers have input on working conditions, when they are part of the decision-making process, you come up with a better, safer environment—and that’s good for everybody,” said UFCW Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division Director Mark Lauritsen. “It works because everyone is involved from Tyson management to UFCW leaders, ergo monitors and production workers.”
“The union and Tyson have worked together to make this ergonomics program what it is today (and) I think we’re way ahead of the industry with our program,” said Marvin Harrington, President of UFCW Local 222, which represents workers at the Dakota City plant. “We’re proud the program is part of our UFCW contract with Tyson. We train UFCW members on how to identify hazards and recommend fixes. Having both Tyson management and UFCW members engaged on detecting hazards makes for an efficient process.”
Tyson has been involved in numerous engineering projects designed to modify work stations and equipment in order to reduce physical stressors on the job. Examples include redesigned knife handles, height-adjustable work stations, use of lighter-weight saws/power tools, hydraulic/mechanical assists to lift or separate product, lower overhead chains and conveyors to eliminate reaching over shoulder height, product diverters on conveyor lines to bring product closer to workers, comfortable/level floor surfaces, improved illumination and job rotation. The company has also worked to reduce the vibration generated by certain tools and modified personal protective equipment to make it fit better and be more comfortable.
“We’ve implemented some major mechanical and process changes in our beef and pork plants over the years,” said Tom DeRoos, Corporate Ergonomics Program Manager for Tyson. “This includes equipment designed to replace some of what had previously been done manually by production workers. For example, many of our pork plants have automatic loin trimmers to remove fat from surface of the pork loins.”
Ergonomics were part of the design of Tyson’s new, multi-million dollar beef processing floor at Dakota City. The new addition, which became operational in early 2006, includes adjustable work stations as well as a production flow designed with worker safety and health in mind.
But not all of the ergonomic improvements have involved major changes. “Many of them have been what we call ‘quick fixes,’ which are projects that can be done in a matter of a few days,” said Dennis Golden, Training Manager/Ergonomics Liaison at Tyson’s Dakota City plant, who has been involved in the ergonomics program since its inception. “For example, since late 1988, we’ve implemented more than 3,600 quick fixes at our Dakota City plant, making minor adjustments such as moving a gear box or relocating a knife sanitizer to make the work station more comfortable for team members.”
“I’ve been involved with the ergo program from the start as a UFCW member serving on a monitoring committee and as a union representative,” said Carmen Hacht, Local 222 Recorder. “The key to making it work is monitors making the rounds, surveying workers, documenting the kinds of strain people are feeling, then following up and making sure that the fixes make a positive difference.”
Effective medical management is also essential to the ergonomics program. Its focus is early reporting and treatment of any workplace injuries or illnesses. “We require our team members to report all work-related injuries or illnesses, no matter how minor they believe them to be,” said DeRoos. “By immediately assessing and treating such injuries or illnesses, we’re often able to help reduce the severity and duration.”
Tyson Fresh Meats currently operates eight beef plant and six pork plants in the United States. In addition to Dakota City, this includes beef plants in Amarillo, Texas; Denison, Iowa; Joslin, Illinois; Emporia, Kansas; Finney County, Kansas; Lexington, Nebraska; and Pasco, Washington. The company’s pork plants are in Logansport, Indiana; Louisa County, Iowa; Storm Lake, Iowa; Perry, Iowa; Waterloo, Iowa; and Madison, Nebraska. The UFCW represents workers at Tyson plants in Dakota City, Joslin, Perry, Logansport and Waterloo.
About Tyson Foods, Inc.
Tyson Foods, Inc., founded in 1935 with headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, is the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork, the second-largest food production company in the Fortune 500 and a member of the S&P 500. The company produces a wide variety of protein-based and prepared food products and is the recognized market leader in the retail and foodservice markets it serves. Tyson provides products and service to customers throughout the United States and more than 90 countries. The company has approximately 117,000 Team Members employed at more than 300 facilities and offices in the United States and around the world. Through its Core Values, Code of Conduct and Team Member Bill of Rights, Tyson strives to operate with integrity and trust and is committed to creating value for its shareholders, customers and Team Members. The company also strives to be faith-friendly, provide a safe work environment and serve as stewards of the animals, land and environment entrusted to it.
About the UFCW
The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries, including 22,000 who work at Tyson plants. UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries. The UFCW and its predecessor unions have represented workers in the packing and processing industries for more than 100 years. Union contracts in the industry ensured equal pay for equal work for African Americans and women decades before equal pay became a larger societal goal. The UFCW has also been a leading national voice on workplace safety and health, helping spearhead protective federal legislation and OSHA regulations on waste containment, ergonomics, diacetyl, and combustible dust, among other initiatives.
November 14, 2008
November 10–Local 222 Recording Secretary Carmen Hacht is the 2007 recipient of the 2008 Tony Mazzocchi Award, an award for excellence in occupational health and safety in the workplace.
Hacht worked at Tyson Foods Inc. meatpacking plant (formerly IBP) in Nebraska for 20 years, playing a role as an active steward from the very beginning of her time there. In the mid-1980s, IBP workers were suffering from high rates of MSDs. Local 222 and the UFCW International’s Safety and Health department filed an OSHA complaint, and IBP receieved one of the highest fines ever for failing to provide a safe and healthy workplace.
Settlement of the citations led to a successful ergonomic program, and Carmen became an “”ergonomic monitor,”” a line worker trained in ergonomics. She was responsible for job analysis, audits of workers on light duty jobs, worker advocacy when workers were injured and needed help getting through the medical system, and monitoring workers training and skills.
Carmen’s work at Local 222 now includes overseeing the ergonomics program at the meatpacking plants. She teaches new monitors what their jobs will entail, and has earned the trust and respect of the plant workers. The UFCW is proud of the contributions that Carmen has made over the years to improving working conditions for thousands of workers.
November 13, 2007
(Washington, DC) – Today, the nation’s largest meatpacking worker union announced its support for an effort to ban meatpacking corporations from owning livestock The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) supports a key provision of the Farm Bill (S.2302) that would preserve the structure that keeps food production a stable industry in America’s heartland and protect jobs for hundreds of thousands of workers in the U.S.
A handful of meatpacking corporations dominate the beef and pork industries. Meatpacking companies have used the changing landscape to own as much livestock as possible. As a result, farmers have lost business. In the pork industry, when meatpackers own the hogs from birth to slaughter they can move livestock and production to wherever they can find the cheapest land and labor.
Workers, communities and the environment have paid the price for these disruptions. Giant hog feedlots with lagoons of hog waste sprung up overnight and overwhelmed the environment and water tables in parts of the country where hog production didn’t exist thirty years ago. Giant processing plants were built near the feedlots to employ a workforce that is beholden to the industry. Workers at processing plants located in places like Iowa and South Dakota lost their jobs when plants were shuttered and never reopened.
Left unchecked and unregulated, every meatpacking producer will attempt to operate the same way – moving livestock and production to maximize profits, no matter how many jobs and local economies are destroyed in the process. UFCW’s experience is that meatpacking corporations which own livestock push down wage and benefits levels for all workers in the industry.
U.S. Senators are considering a provision, Section 10207. Prohibition on Packers Owning, Feeding, or Controlling Livestock as part of the 2007 Farm Bill. This provision would preserve the open market approach to meat production and protect workers and communities from further disruption and exploitation at the hands of giant meatpacking companies. The UFCW joins more than 200 organizations, including the National Farmers’ Union, in supporting the ban on packer ownership of livestock.
In a full-page ad in today’s issue of Roll Call, UFCW members pointed out that when meatpacking companies own all levels of production, the stability of processing jobs are at risk.
The UFCW represents more than 250,000 workers in the meat packing and food processing industries, including workers at Hormel, Tyson, Cargill and Smithfield Foods.
November 14, 2005
Justices Agree to End the Workplace Rip-off
(Washington, DC) – Meatpacking, poultry and food processing workers finally have the backing and protection of the highest court in the land. Today, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the position long held by workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) – that employers must pay workers for time spent obtaining required safety equipment and reporting to their work location in the plant. The UFCW has advocated for decades that all required time is paid time.
For far too long, employers have cheated workers out of their full paycheck by refusing to pay them for the time it takes to pick up their required safety equipment such as chain mail gloves, hair nets, aprons and heavy boots. Meat industry giants like Tyson Foods, which owns IBP, have long insisted that workers paid time does not include as much as thirty to forty minutes per day spent collecting and putting on their gear and walking to their station on the production line.
Today, the Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed that workers deserve to be paid for that time. In reality, the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had to rule on such a case speaks volumes about the greed and arrogance of employers in this country. It wasn’t enough to cheat workers out of their wages, the meat packing industry fought for the right to continue its rip-off all the way to the highest court.
The time has finally come for the hundreds of thousands of workers to receive their rightfully due wages when they report for duty in America’s food industry workplaces. Today’s court ruling is a tremendous victory for workers.
October 21, 2005
Strikers Hospitalized from Brutal Attacks
(Washington, DC) – As the temperature begins to cool here in the United States, a bitter and brutal cold has crept into the air surrounding the Tyson beef plant in Brooks, Alberta, Canada. More than 2,300 workers, many of them workers who are refugees from the Sudan, have been forced onto the streets and onto picket lines in a battle to preserve a decent standard of living. Tyson is leaving workers and their families out in the cold, again.
Workers at the Brooks plant stood up for a voice with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 in August, 2004, eager for basic workplace protections such as an end to harassment, improved safety training, and better handling of biological hazards. More than 600 Sudanese immigrant workers were lured to Alberta with the promise of a good job and bright future. Tyson’s disregard for the basic safety needs of its workforce, immigrant and native, is reprehensible. Picket lines went up on October 12, 2005 after Tyson Foods threw out a proposal by a mediator appointed by the Alberta government to facilitate a first-contract agreement.
“UFCW members and Tyson workers in the United States stand firmly in support of our Canadian brothers and sisters as they stand up against Tyson’s greed,” said Joseph T. Hansen, UFCW International President. “We are committing every resource available to support our striking workers in Alberta on the frontlines against Tyson’s inexcusable greed.”
Provincial law enforcement officers stood by yesterday as replacement workers and management verbally and physically assaulted Sudanese workers with racially-motivated jeers and anti-immigrant insults. Several strikers were reportedly beaten with metal pipes, left injured in a ditch before being transported to the hospital.
“Tyson recruits workers from all over the world to bring them to work in their North American operations in a race to the bottom. Exploitation of a vulnerable immigrant workforce is part of their business plan. Now, it is particularly galling to see that the Tyson is allowing racially-motivated violence to take place on the picket line,” continued Hansen.
Tyson’s behavior in Alberta follows a pattern it sets in the United States – doing everything in its power to lower wages, cut benefits and reduce workplace standards for employees, particularly immigrant workers. In 2003, Tyson forced long-time meat processing workers in Jefferson, Wisconsin onto picket lines for nearly one year in order to lower wage and benefit levels for unionized workers in the United States. In this instance, Tyson’s message to the black immigrant workforce is clear: we brought you to this continent so that we can pay you less than native workers.
Tyson Foods is the Wal-Mart of the meat industry – dominating 27 percent of all beef, pork and chicken sales in the U.S. But size doesn’t give it the excuse to drag workers’ wages, health care benefits, and workplace standards to the even lower levels. The company carries very little debt and share prices have increased by 25% in the last year. Tyson has no financial need to demand sub-standard wage and benefit levels for workers in the U.S. or Canada.
The Brooks facility handles 40% of all beef slaughter in Canada. It operates under the name “Lakeside Packers.” Tyson has owned the plant for ten years.
UFCW members in the U.S. will be marching and leafletting in support of the strikers at the Millions More Movement on the National Mall in Washington, DC tomorrow.
October 20, 2005
UFCW Canada Press Release — The national director of the union on strike at a Tyson Food’s plant (Lakeside Packers) in Brooks, Alberta, Canada has stepped up his call for Prime Minister Paul Martin to facilitate a resolution “”before someone gets killed””, in the wake of three picketers and the union’s local president all being hospitalized after being attacked by Tyson company personnel.
|Click here to watch live video taken at the scene of the car accident.|
“”On Thursday three picketers ended up in hospital after they were viciously outnumbered and beaten by Lakeside managers,”” recounted Michael J. Fraser, the national director of UFCW Canada, “”and now they attempt to murder the President of the local union by ramming his car off the road.””
“”Premier Klein has said he’s not prepared to intervene. Then let Prime Minister Martin show leadership and use his power to facilitate a resolution. Tyson’s Lakeside Packers is a federally licensed and inspected plant. Tyson’s tactics have created an explosive situation. This is not the Wild West or the Old South. Assault and attempted murder are not acceptable bargaining tactics.””
It is the second time this week Fraser has called on the Prime Minister to get involved. Fraser made his latest comments while enroute to Alberta where yesterday Doug O’Halloran, the president of UFCW Local 401, was chased and forced off the road by cars driven by Lakeside Packers management personnel.
O’Halloran is now listed in guarded condition.
Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, the owners of Lakeside Packers, forced the strike after rejecting a settlement drafted by a mediator appointed by the Alberta government to facilitate a first-contract agreement.
August 31, 2004
(Dakota City, NE) – Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 222 turned out today to vote their approval for the agreement covering 3,000 workers at the Tyson Dakota City plant.
The new UFCW contract brings an immediate 60 cent increase in the base wage for production and slaughter employees, with a $1.55 increase over the term of the contract, making the pay among the best in the beef industry. Maintenance workers will also receive substantial pay increases.
Highlights of the new agreement include:
Guaranteed wage increases totaling $1.55;
Establishes standard of a minimum 36 hours a week;
An additional week of vacation;
Improved health benefits, including adding vision, long-term disability, retiree coverage and a supplemental Medicare plan;
Increased retirement savings through additional employer 401(k) contributions and added stock options for employees.
Maintained overtime pay rates;
Increased funding for multi‑cultural fund that provides resources for programs such as safety training in Spanish and English-as-a-Second Language classes; and
Provides a clear attendance record for all employees (no disciplinary action based on past absences.)
“The solidarity and determination of UFCW members gave us the strength at the bargaining table to win a groundbreaking contract that will improve the living standards for thousands of Dakota City families. The entire community will benefit as workers have more money to spend in our local economy,” said Marv Harrington, President of UFCW Local 222. “Solidarity works and solidarity wins for everyone.”
November 18, 2003
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.
For more information: www.tysonfamiliesstandup.org
October 15, 2003
OR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OCTOBER 11, 2003
Gephardt Health Care Stance Wins Support From
Nation’s Largest Private Sector Union
Davenport, Iowa—Today, the nation’s largest private sector union, and the largest union in Iowa, put the support of its 1.4 million members behind Dick Gephardt for President. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union endorsed the Gephardt campaign based on his plan to protect the employer-based health care system in the U.S.
The UFCW is at the forefront of the fight to protect health care at work for millions of working families. This weekend, UFCW is leading more than 70,000 supermarket employees on strike in Southern California to fight back against employer demands to destroy health benefits for workers and their families. In the meatpacking industry, UFCW members have been on strike since February 28, 2003, at Tyson Foods in Jefferson, Wisconsin, to stop Tyson from slashing health care for the 470 workers. In St. Louis, Missouri, 10,000 retail food workers are on the picket line fighting back against a similar employer demand that would threaten workers’ medical benefits.
“Most Americans get health care at work, and we want to keep it that way because the UFCW believes if you do the work, you’ve earned affordable health care,” said UFCW International Secretary-Treasurer Joe Hansen.
“If you have medical benefits at work, the Gephardt plan will make sure you keep them and that they stay affordable,” continued Hansen. “If you work, but don’t get benefits, the Gephardt plan will make sure you do.”
The endorsement was based on UFCW members’ views on working family issues in the context of the 2004 presidential election.
Research, conducted by the Wilson Center for Public Research, shows that UFCW members feel the government should take action to deal with:
· Rapidly rising health care costs (94%)
· 44 million Americans without health insurance (91%)
· Employer demands for cuts in medical benefits (87%)
In addition, 97% of those polled felt that a candidate’s position on protecting health care at work was important—75% said it was crucial—to making a decision about their choice for President in 2004.
These perceptions reflect the views of the cashier moms, a key demographic in next year’s election. UFCW membership mirrors the general workforce population in every category—gender, race, age, and marital status, making UFCW member views a snapshot of those held by millions of working people around the country.
The UFCW represents 1.4 million workers in the supermarket, meatpacking, poultry, food processing, health care, chemical, textile and garment, distillery, and other industries.