The plant is slated to close in May, but workers at a Tyson processing facility in Van Buren are striking today in hopes of claiming severance pay and improving working conditions for the final stretch.
Venceremos, a Springdale-based human rights organization that advocates for poultry workers, sent word of the strike.
Today, workers at the Van Buren Tyson facility in Arkansas launched a strike, demanding fair pay before Tyson closes the facility and lays off workers in May.
Since Tyson announced the closure, many workers have left the plant – which previously employed nearly 1,000 workers. Tyson has not filled the resulting gaps in the production line. The remaining workers are forced to risk their health to cover multiple jobs. At the same time, the workers face new restrictions, including a freeze on vacation time and threat of termination for workers who miss three days of work, even for sick leave.
Ahead of the facility closure, Tyson workers are demanding:
- Equal treatment compared to supervisors and corporate employees, who will receive a severance package based on years of employment, while workers on the production floor receive no severance.
- Full payout of unused vacation time at the end of employment. Tyson is refusing this and also barring workers from taking any vacation days before the plant closure.
- Full accountability for workers’ compensation claims, which Tyson has historically dodged or retaliated against. Many workers who were injured on the job, but feared losing their job in retaliation for complaints are now able to come forward to file claims ahead of the plant closing.
- Fair working conditions. Workers are forced to risk their health to cover multiple jobs without proper compensation.
“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, an organization that advocates for poultry workers in Arkansas and 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.”
A spokesperson for Tyson reached out to share that the plant is operating today. Derek Burleson said Tyson is trying to help its workers find new jobs, and will help cover relocation expenses for people who accept jobs at other Tyson facilities.
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.
Venceremos is sharing a live feed of the strike on their Facebook page here.