Federal Prosecutors on Wednesday handed down a 36 count indictment against Tyson foods, the nation’s largest meatproducer. The indictments charge that Tyson tried to cut costs in its poultry factories by smuggling undocumentedworkers from Mexico and giving them fraudulent work papers so they could work in their factories at low wages.
The indictments contend Tyson has engaged in the practice since 1994 and that the alleged conspiracy included 15Tyson plants in nine states.
The charges against Tyson are horrific but by no means unusual. In July, 1999, two workers, James Dame, Jr. and MikeHallum fell into an open pit of decomposing chicken parts and suffocated from the methane gas at Tyson’s Robards,Kentucky facility.
Meat production in the U.S. is increasingly dominated by huge corporations that rely on low-wage, non-union, oftenundocumented workers, for their processing plants, where they face some of the highest injury rates of any job in thecountry.
The media has focused on Tyson’s wrongdoing, but largely ignored the workers themselves, whom community activists andlabor unions say are victims of both a failed immigration policy and un-enforced labor laws that leave themvulnerable to exploitation.
- Anna Avandano, Assistant General Counsel for the United Food and Commercial Workers.
- Adrienne Markowitz, industrial hygienist and previous director of health and safety for the NationalRetail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers union. She is also a founding member of the Georgia Poultry JusticeAlliance.
- Reverend Jim Lewis, Founding member of the Delmarva Poultry Justice Alliance, a community based campaignworking to improve conditions for workers, small farmers and the environment on the Peninsula joined by Delaware,Maryland, Virginia.