VAN BUREN, ARK. — Tyson workers at the Van Buren, Ark., facility launched a strike, asking for fair pay before the plant closes in May.
Since the closure was announced in March, several workers have left the company before layoffs are administered. The closure affects nearly 1,000 workers.
According to a press release from Venceremos, an organization that advocates for poultry workers in Arkansas, Tyson has not filled gaps in the production line, and the remaining workers cover multiple jobs and face restrictions like a freeze on vacation time and a threat of termination for employees who miss three days of work.
“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. “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.”
The workers on strike are demanding equal treatment to supervisors and corporate employees, who will receive a severance package based on their tenure. In addition, they are asking for full payout of unused vacation time, full accountability for workers’ compensation claims and fair working conditions.
Tyson told Supermarket Perimeter's sister publication, MEAT+POULTRY, that the plant is still operating.
“We realize this is a difficult situation and supporting our affected team members is our top priority,” a spokesperson said. “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.”
Tyson said employees will receive full pay for unused vacation or holiday time earned prior to the plant’s closure. The company is offering workers relocation assistance, including the option to apply to other Tyson facilities where applicable.
“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,” the company said.
The job fair was announced by the City of Van Buren last week and will be held on April 29 at the Van Buren High School.