Johnnie Cochran's Firm Suing Tyson Foods
The Cochran Firm, founded by famed attorney Johnnie L. Cochran, has filed suit against Tyson Foods Inc., Springdale, AK. The firm claims that employees, comprised mainly of immigrants, were paid the same number of hours each week, regardless of actual time worked under a master time system.
With annual sales of $26 billion in 2005 and with 50 poultry processing facilities in the U.S., Tyson Foods may 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 and the poultry segment accounted for 31 percent 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 and pork divisions.
Tyson operates an integrated poultry production process through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Cobb-Vantress. Its operations consist of breeding and raising chickens, and the processing and marketing of these and related products.
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 nine in the state of Georgia. Five 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 $19,600. "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, Atlanta, who is heading the poultry lawsuits.
"The poultry industry employs a vast number of Latino and Asian immigrants because a lot of Americans will not work in the industry, because 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.
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.
Louisville Teamsters Ratify Contracts At Kroger Facilities
Teamsters at Local 89 in Louisville, KY, have ratified two six-year contracts at Kroger facilities after being forced to strike last month to protect their jobs.
The 750-member unit includes drivers and warehouse workers that service 190 area stores.
The six-year contracts, which were overwhelmingly ratified, include wage increases, improvements in the pension packages and health care benefits, and most importantly, secure jobs for the workers and their families.
"These workers stood up for what they believed in without hesitation," says Fred Zuckerman, president of Local 89. "The employers needed a wake-up call. That is what union representation is all about—letting companies know that workers are not a line item in a budget—they are men and women with families for which they must provide."
Talks broke down April 17 after the two third-party companies that manage the Kroger warehouse, Transervice Logistics and Zenith Logistics, reneged on proposed contact language both sides had agreed upon in previous negotiations.
"Up until that point, we felt negotiations were proceeding on course, but then they tried to pull a fast one," Zuckerman says. "You can't play games like that during negotiations. We are talking about issues that effect 750 people's livelihoods."
The workers were concerned that this was another stall tactic by Kroger and decided to take action. On April 18, the workers went out on strike, sending a clear message to the company.
"We need to know that our jobs will be here tomorrow," says John Kestler, a driver and member of Local 89. "They didn't seem to understand how important this was to us. I think the strike brought that point home pretty quickly."