Teamsters Fight Union Busting at Tyson

January 28, 2005: Local 556 Teamsters at Tyson Foods know what they want in the New Year—to beat corporate union-busting at the world’s largest meatpacking company and win a new contract.

Meatpacking is dangerous work—especially at Tyson’s plant in Pasco, Wash., where Teamster members are injured at three times the national average for comparable meatpacking plants. Tyson Teamsters know they can’t beat a multinational corporation on their own. Since electing a reform leadership in 2000, Local 556 members have built alliances with unions, community groups, and human rights organizations to work together to promote workers’ rights and consumer safety at Tyson.

Working with these allies, Local 556 members have exposed corporate wage and hour violations and won a $7.3 million court settlement in unpaid wages—with another $8 million victory anticipated in state court. When a Local 556 Teamster lost his arm in a grisly accident, a union investigation revealed that the company had knowingly removed a safety mechanism from the machine. 

Tyson management has responded to this stand-up local by trying to destroy it. In April 2004 management tried to get workers to decertify the Teamsters. Tyson failed and workers voted to remain Teamsters and begin contract negotiations. But instead of respecting the workers’ vote and bargaining in good faith, Tyson stalled at the bargaining table, cancelled dues check-off, and demanded a new decertification vote.

In November, Tyson threatened to impose a five-year contract that would freeze workers’ wages and eliminate workers’ union rights like dues check-off and union security—effectively ending union representation at the plant. Tyson workers responded by overwhelmingly signing a petition rejecting the company’s offer. Tyson has now agreed to meet with the union and a federal mediator on Jan. 11-13. 

Local 556 Teamsters are not asking for the moon. But Tyson is trying to force Teamsters to accept an agreement that is vastly inferior to what they agreed to in numerous recent contract settlements.

In their struggle for justice at Tyson Foods, Local 556 has received solidarity from Teamster locals as well as community groups and labor organizations across the U.S., Japan, Korea and Mexico—Tyson’s largest markets. With our support, these brave Teamsters can beat the union-busters and win a contract at Tyson Foods.

Local 556 is asking members to fax and mail a letter demanding a fair contract settlement in 2005. Letters cards can be sent to Mr. John Tyson, CEO Tyson Foods, Inc., 2210 West Oaklawn Drive, P.O. Box 2020, Springdale, Ark. 72762 and faxed to (479) 290-4028. 

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