IASJ Urges Shareholders to Support Tyson Proposal to End Illegal Child Labor

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February 6, 2024

On February 8, 2024, Tyson Foods’ investors will decide whether or not to support a shareholder proposal calling on the Company to end illegal child labor within its value chain. The proposal, filed by the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) and six faith-based co-filers, asks the Company to commission an independent, third-party audit to assess the effectiveness of Tyson’s policies and practices in preventing illegal child labor throughout its value chain.

ABHMS’ Director of Investments, Dave Moore, stated: “As a faith-based institution, the American Baptist Home Mission Society is committed to advancing human rights and racial equity in our Common Investment Fund portfolio companies. The recent revelations of illegal middle school child labor in Tyson’s plants performing and being injured from hazardous cleaning duties combined with the allegations of vulnerable immigrant children catching chickens on Tyson’s contracted chicken farms, are unacceptable. As long-term investors with Tyson, we demand that the Company effectively investigate these matters and provide remedy to the affected children.”

Recent governmental investigations have documented illegal child labor in Tyson’s operations, and an ongoing governmental investigation presents additional material risk for the Company and its shareholders. Children have been engaged in hazardous work, including using caustic chemicals and cleaning sharp and dangerous meat processing equipment. More recently, there have been allegations of illegal child labor in Tyson’s contracted chicken farms. The presence of  vulnerable children in Tyson’s value chain is shameful and should be swiftly and effectively addressed.

For years, long-term investors have tried to engage Tyson, in good faith, on issues of human rights due diligence, racial equity, and worker health and safety. However, investors remain concerned that the ongoing scandals of these intersecting issues point to systemic problems within the Company’s value chain. Starting with Tyson’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in thousands of infections and hundreds of worker deaths, disparately impacting workers and communities of color. In response, Tyson committed to conducting a racial equity audit in 2021, but has not followed through. The presence of illegal child labor in Tyson’s operations may be a tragic symptom of the Company’s disregard for the wellbeing of its workers.

Magaly Licolli, Executive Director at Venceremos, an organization that advocates for Tyson workers and other poultry workers in Arkansas, said, “Too many workers have suffered injuries or serious health problems under Tyson’s watch and these shareholders have had enough with exploitation in their name. Workers deserve dignity, fair pay and transparency. I hope more investors will stand with workers and demand an end to the dangerous conditions that people endure throughout Tyson’s supply chain, especially the exploitation of vulnerable children.”

One Tyson worker, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared with Venceremos: “I’m grateful to know that Tyson’s investors are calling on Tyson to demand better company practices to ensure our dignity. I’ve been working for Tyson for over 20 years, and I’ve experienced and seen all types of abuse, our safety is at risk every day; it’s unacceptable that Tyson has allowed kids to work under very dangerous working conditions and yet they haven’t done anything to prevent kids from being recruited to work within their supply chain.” 

Courtney Wicks, Executive Director of Investor Advocates for Social Justice, remarked: “The requested audit is a necessary first step to root out illegal child labor from the Company’s value chain and to identify larger patterns of worker exploitation and mitigate systemic risk to investors. I urge all shareholders to support this proposal. And, I call on the Company to end its exploitation of Black and Brown workers and of children. Worker rights are human rights.”

Watch Investor Advocates for Social Justice’s Executive Director, Courtney Wicks, present her remarks on the shareholder proposal:

– the IASJ Team

For press inquiries or additional questions, please reach out to Aaron Acosta, Program Director, at aacosta@iasj.org