September 19, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 17,000 Tyson poultry workers in 41 plants in 12 states settled a $32 million dollar lawsuit in a 12-year struggle to get paid for work already performed. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), as the leading union for meatpacking and food processing workers, initiated the suit against Tyson and played a critical role in obtaining justice for Tyson poultry workers and thousands of UFCW members affected by the suit. On Thursday, the United States District Court in Georgia approved the settlement.
“Every American deserves to get paid for the work they do,” said Joe Hansen, UFCW International President. “We’re changing the way meatpackers do business and making them pay thousands of workers correctly.”
The lawsuit charged Tyson with violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Meatpacking and food processing workers wear specialized protective gear while they work to protect both themselves and the food we eat. Before these UFCW-initiated lawsuits began, meatpacking companies didn’t pay workers for time spent taking the gear on and off, adding up to thousands of dollars of lost pay over years of work.
“We’ve already made a change in the way meatpackers pay their workers,” said Hansen. “While this settlement is long overdue, our efforts have ensured that thousands of workers have been paid correctly for years now.”
The lawsuit will result in payments, averaging around $1,000 per worker, to current and former Tyson workers across the country. These payments will inject much-needed money into America’s rural economy and reward a hard-working and dedicated group of poultry workers. The affected Tyson poultry workers work at plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
This lawsuit and the new pay practices in the meatpacking industry are just one way union workers raise standards for every worker in their industry, regardless of their union status.