SPRINGDALE (KFSM) — Protesters gathered outside Tyson Foods Headquarters in Springdale on Wednesday (May 11) calling for the poultry industry to improve employees’ working conditions.
The protest coincides with the delivery of a petition that has been signed by more than 100,000 people since fall of 2015. Inside, the petition demands better working conditions for employees in the poultry industry.
A recent report found that employees working in poultry plants around the nation do not receive adequate bathroom breaks.
The report, called “Lives on the Line: The Human Cost of Cheap Labor” was published by Oxfam America in 2016. In it, they talk to several poultry employees from major poultry companies about working conditions. Inadequate bathroom breaks, increasing line speed, no sick days, and health risks of working in the plant are just a few of the topics that the report covers.
Rosa Rivas, who worked at Tyson for 10 years, was one of roughly 30 protesters standing outside Tyson on Wednesday. Rivas said she witnessed someone urinating on himself because he was denied a bathroom break.
“We are in the struggle to improve working conditions for all workers,” Rivas said. “I’m no longer at Tyson but this is for all workers whether they’re there or not.”
However, Tyson officials said that the workers’ claims can’t be backed up with facts.
Hector Gonzalez, vice president of human resources, said that Tyson does not tolerate the refusal of workers’ requests for bathroom breaks.
“We’ve learned of a number of anonymous claims,” Gonzalez said. “We have no evidence that they are true, but we’ve checked to ensure that our position on restroom breaks is being followed at all plants.”
He said that any team member with concerns should contact their supervisor, human resources or the Tyson helpline.
The National Chicken Council released the following statement following Oxfam’s report:
“The health, safety and respect of our employees is very important, and we value their contributions in helping to produce our food. We’re troubled by these claims but also question this group’s efforts to paint the whole industry with a broad brush based on a handful of anonymous claims. We believe such instances are extremely rare and that U.S. poultry companies work hard to prevent them.
“Although individual practices vary by company, restroom breaks are planned for any production line. Most facilities also employ extra people to cover for production workers who request a bathroom break. In addition, medical-related situations are taken into account and accommodations are made.
“Coordinating restroom breaks in the workplace is certainly not unique to the chicken industry. Whether it’s a cashier, bus driver, bartender, bank teller or just about any manufacturing job, there are practices in place related to restroom breaks that are clearly outlined to the employee.”