Update: Tyson has provided a statement to KNWA/FOX24 below.
VAN BUREN, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A month after Tyson Foods Inc. announced the closure of a Van Buren poultry facility, workers are protesting until a list of their demands is heard.
Workers are asking for a full payout of unused vacation time, a severance package based on employees’ years of work and for Tyson to take accountability in workers’ compensation claims for injured workers, according to a document shared online.
The plant is set to close on May 12, leaving more than 900 employees without a job. The plant was built in 1975.
Venceremos, a nonprofit organization supporting human rights for poultry workers, said that the worker-led strike was caused because workers felt it was the only option Tyson left them after years of service with no severance or paying out workers’ vacation time once the plant closes.
A spokesperson with Venceremos, Marco Berrios, said he expects the protest to last at least three days.
Tyson management has talked to the protesters but nothing has been said about changes, according to Berrios.
“Tyson is treating its workers as disposable, denying them the pay they are owed and the basic respect they deserve, not only as employees but as humans,” said Magaly Licolli, Executive Director at Venceremos, who supports the strike. “These frontline workers who are being exploited are mostly people of color. Many have been working for 10 or even 20 years, but they aren’t offered the same severance package as the majority white corporate employees. The frontline staff are working harder than ever, in even more dangerous conditions, to make up for understaffing, but they are only being treated worse in return. It’s time to hold Tyson accountable for fair pay and treatment.”
Protesters are holding signs that say “Justicia Para Trabajadores” (Justice for Workers), “Justice 4 Workers,” and “Workers for Justice.” Shouts of “Tyson listen we are in the fight,” can be heard chanted in Spanish along with “si se puede” or “yes we can.”
Updated: Statement from Tyson
We realize this is a difficult situation and supporting our affected team members is our top priority. We’ve been in regular communication with our Van Buren team to ensure they have resources and assistance available to them, including a $1,000 stay on bonus for all team members who remain with Tyson Foods until the plant closes.
We’re offering team members relocation assistance with financial incentives, while also ensuring they have the option to apply for open positions where applicable to other Tyson Foods facilities.
Team members with unused vacation or holiday time earned prior to the plant’s closing will be paid in full.
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.Director of Public Relations Derek Burleson