Written by Anthony Moujaes
The Pension Boards-United Church of Christ, Inc., is joining faith-based investors in the quest for fair treatment of Arkansas poultry workers through shareholder advocacy efforts, calling on Tyson Foods leadership to make their workplace safe and to pay their employees a respectable living wage.
"This is a situation where the leverage of financial assets can serve as an effective strategy for prophetic and compassionate ministry. As a shareholder in Tyson Foods, the Pension Boards calls upon Tyson's management, board members, and shareholders to practice good governance by making the workplace safe, treating workers with respect, and raising wages," said the Rev. Rick Walters, PBUCC director of corporate social responsibility. "Shareholder engagement is a powerful tool for social justice when combined with other efforts such as those organized by the Missouri Mid-South Conference and UCC congregations in response to this situation."
Workers at Tyson's Arkansas-based poultry plants have reported hazardous working conditions, work-related injuries, low wages, lack of benefits, harassment and discrimination. Meanwhile, the poultry industry has boomed. According to Oxfam America, a global organization advocating to end poverty, hunger and injustice, the president and CEO of Tyson Foods earned $12.2 million in 2014, meaning that in 3.5 hours, he earned the annual salary of a line worker, who averages just less than $30,000 per year.
Earlier in February, the national setting of the UCC, United Church Funds, and the Missouri Mid-South Conference supported workers during a Tyson Foods shareholder meeting. Together, those UCC faith communities called on the food giant to publicly and objectively report on the working conditions in its facilities.