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Downward Mobility
11.05.03
Politics and Economy:
Response from Tyson
More on This Story:

Following the NOW segment "Downward Mobility" (October 24, 2003), one of NOW's viewers reacted by writing to Tyson Foods. The letter is featured below, and is followed by the subsequent response to this viewer from Tyson Foods.


NOW Viewer's Letter to Tyson Foods

Mr. Nicholson...

I just finished watching the NOW program with Bill Moyer concerning your store in Jefferson, WI. I had no idea Tyson's policies were what this show portrayed today. I have, after watching it, formed some very strong opinions.

I have used many Tyson products in the past, however, after viewing this show, will not do so in the future. I will also encourage my grown children and their families to boycott all Tyson products until you change some of your policies.

The employees of Tyson that refuse to stand up and change the practices that portray such a negative viewpoint that people have of their company should really be ashamed of themselves.

Sincerely,

B. Rohach


Response from Tyson Foods, Inc.

While the "Now with Bill Moyers" program did offer some limited information from the company's perspective, we are concerned it might appear from the program we are making an unfair contract offer to the union representing our plant in Jefferson, Wisconsin. We would like to offer the following for clarification.

We cooperated fully with the producers, referring them to a number of sources, including unbiased third parties such as academic labor experts, who could present a different side of the story. While we appreciate the opportunity to tell our side of the story through our Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Ken Kimbro, we believe a more balanced approach would have also included a broader perspective from other authoritative sources.

The union assertion that Tyson Foods is attempting to impose a wage lower than community or industry standards is totally unfounded. Wage proposals are determined by a number of factors, not the least of which is a study of prevailing wages in the plant community. As part of this research, we accessed the JobNet Web site of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to see what other companies in the area are offering as starting wages. A look at these jobs will indicate the offer is indeed in line with, and in many cases better than, wages being offered in other plants in the Jefferson/Madison area. While jobs from this site are continually being filled and removed, a partial list of such jobs can be found at the Tyson Foods Web site. We provided this list to the producers of the program to support our position.

Tyson Foods, Inc. has 55 union contracts in our operations, which span 27 states, from Washington State to Maine to Georgia. Since the acquisition of IBP, inc. in 2001, this is the only union contract which has come up for renewal and not been ratified.

Within the past ten years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that wages in the poultry industry, as well as in the beef and pork industries, have increased at a rate faster than inflation. Wages at Tyson Foods have similarly increased at a rate faster than inflation. The implication that the company is attempting to "push wages lower" is not supported by wage trends in our industry or in our company.

Soaring healthcare costs are affecting everyone. Today, the average blue collar worker pays $208 a month for his share of family healthcare coverage. See Bureau of Labor Statistics. The healthcare plan offered as part of the proposed contract in Jefferson offers a basic family plan, including dental and vision benefits for $117 a month.

After a detailed review of the Company's negotiations with the bargaining unit at Jefferson, the National Labor Relations Board determined that Tyson Foods negotiators bargained in good faith in the thirty-six on-the-record bargaining sessions held before and during the eight month extension of the contract at Jefferson leading up to the strike.

A number of assertions made by the union in the course of the strike regarding details of the proposed contract have been unfounded. For an overview of the points of difference within the contract, see Jefferson Plant Manager Dev Traver's letter to the community.

We appreciate the opportunity to respond to concerns raised by the program.

Ed Nicholson
Tyson Foods, Inc.


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