EARL DOTTER / NWAWJC
ON THE LINE: A poultry worker in Northwest Arkansas.
The AP reports
that Tyson Foods,
the Arkansas-based meat processing giant, has settled a lawsuit brought by current and former workers at a pork processing plant in Storm Lake, Iowa. The employees said the company didn't compensate them for time spent donning protective gear — a prerequisite for working on the line — before each shift and removing the gear afterwards .
Over 3,900 workers are eligible to benefit from the $5.8 million settlement, the AP reported. The ten-year legal battle wound its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, and this recent settlement comes after a federal district judge denied Tyson's request for a new trial.
The Iowa suit appears to be limited to the plant in Storm Lake, but Tyson workers elsewhere have complained of similar problems. Last year, the Northwest Arkansas Workers Justice Center released a report
that documented instances of wage theft in Arkansas poultry plants. Among 500 workers surveyed, 62 percent said that they'd experienced some sort of labor/wage violation, including having the cost of safety gear deducted from their paycheck. (The study was conducted in concert with the University of California, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and Oxfam America)
the executive director for the Northwest Arkansas Workers Justice Center, said that Tyson workers in Arkansas have complained about not being paid for the time spent putting on and taking off protective clothes and equipment. "Yes, it’s a real thing here too," she said. "Workers are not being paid for the time they are putting on protective gear."
In the 2016 study, 26 percent of the Arkansas poultry workers surveyed reported not being paid for time putting on protective gear.
Licolli also said the company fails to compensate workers for other hours spent on premises. "Whenever the machinery breaks, they can wait 2-3 hours without getting paid, until it is fixed. ... Those hours are not paid."
Licolli said her organization is not currently pursuing legal action against Tyson or other companies for such issues