BIRMINGHAM, Ala., April 16 /PRNewswire/ — The Cochran Firm, founded by famed attorney Johnnie L. Cochran, has filed suit against the world’s
largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork. With annual
sales of $26 billion in 2005 and with 50 poultry processing facilities in
the U.S., Tyson Foods will prospectively see a fierce backlash from the
various wage and hour suits filed against the company.
As of September 30, 2006, Tyson Foods employed approximately 107,000
employees, the poultry segment accounted for 31% of the company’s total
sales. Based on an equation factoring the number of employees, hours worked
on an annual basis, back-pay entitlement and costs for plaintiffs, Tyson
Foods would be liable for over $4 billion, and would see a negative $13.50 impact on earnings per share if the poultry wage and hour litigation is successful.
This decrease does not take into account similar class actions filed
against Tyson’s beef & pork divisions.
Tyson operates a totally integrated poultry production process. Through
its wholly-owned subsidiary, Cobb-Vantress, Tyson is the number one poultry breeding stock supplier in the world. The company’s integrated operations consist of breeding and raising chickens, as well as the processing, further- processing and marketing of these food products and related allied products.
Tyson Foods is the second-largest food production company in the
Fortune 500, the largest meat producer in the world, and according to
Forbes, one of the 100 largest companies in the United States. Tyson Foods is a supplier of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wal-Mart, Wendy’s, McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King, Kroger, Costco, Harps, IGA, Yum!, Beef O’Brady’s, and small restaurant businesses, as well as their private label prepared
The Cochran Firm has filed suits representing clients in a multi-state area of the southeastern U.S., with 16 lawsuits filed within the state of Alabama and 9 in the state of Georgia. 5 of these suits are filed
specifically against Tyson Foods, Inc.
The thousands of claims for workers in the poultry processing industry
stem from a recent Supreme Court decision where industry workers may be
given back wages for time required to be on the job which was not fully
compensated, this will also include attorneys fees and the liquidated costs in damages; doubled in the “back-pay” liability.
The annual wages for poultry workers based on a 40 hour week averages
“I estimate that if workers’ hours are recorded correctly, workers
could earn an additional $6,000 to $8,000 annually, depending on their
wage. These people must be properly compensated,” says attorney Robert Camp of The Cochran Firm, who is heading the poultry lawsuits.
Camp was formerly a poultry industry human resources executive, where
he cultivated his knowledge of the industry through his years working in
the profession. He now sees himself as a worker’s advocate.
“The poultry industry employs a vast number of Latino and Asian
immigrants because a lot of Americans will not work in the industry, due to
the fact that their wage rates are some of the lowest in the meat and food processing sectors,” says Camp.
Very few supervisors are employed at the poultry plants, sometimes as
many as 100 employees report to one supervisor. Managers overseeing
100-plus employees is considered acceptable, due in large to the fact that plant costs are reduced with fewer members of management. Employees
therefore are all paid the same number of hours each week, regardless of
the actual time worked under a master time system; master time was
introduced to address the absence of managerial figures — since in their
absence, time clocks cannot be monitored.
“Immigrants are also less likely to report Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA) violations, less likely to claim unemployment or workers’ comp benefits, less likely to participate in law suits, enroll in company benefits, and less likely to participate in union organization.
To Tyson’s advantage, it is difficult to estimate what effect this will
have on the wage litigation since immigrants are less likely to participate even though their illegal status does not necessarily prohibit them from joining the suit,” Camp continues.
He sums The Cochran Firm’s plights best within a few sentences: “United
States poultry workers have the least among us. These people work hard to
put food on our table while struggling to put food on their own. They are
not asking for a lot, they just want to be paid according to the law for
work they have already performed.”