Report on Tyson misses the mark
A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to meet and visit with several employees of our countyís largest employer, Tyson Foods.
The employees I met included one young woman, Jessie Maybee, who has worked in the companyís Berryville plant for 59 years. When she started her career, 10 days after her high school graduation, the plant was still owned and operated by Ocoma Foods.
Another young lady, Karen Salazar, had been with Tyson for 18 months and had quickly risen from a position working on the line to become a trainer in the human resources department.
All of the current and former Tyson employees I spoke with talked about how well the company has treated them ó just as local officials talk about what an asset Tyson has been to Carroll County over the past 50 years.
Given all that, I was more than mildly surprised to read a report by the Guardian, an online media outlet that boasts about its ďopen, honest fearless journalism.Ē
The Guardian report focused on what it described as a five-month joint investigation by the Guardian and something called the Union of Concerned Scientists. The report is sharply critical of Tysonís ďnear-monopolyĒ of processed poultry sales in Arkansas. It quotes lobbyists, labor activists and disgruntled employees. While the report does include some brief responses from Tyson, they are all attributed to an unnamed spokesman.
The report includes descriptions of cockroaches in the employee lockers, dining room and production areas in a Tyson plant in Green Forest.
Green Forest itself is described as ďa small, dusty, rural town.Ē
ďItís a tough region for migrants to live: the isolated town is located just over 20 miles from Harrison, a hub of white supremacist groups which has been labeled the USís most racist town,Ē the report says.
The report also says that most of Tysonís employees are paid less than $15 an hour, despite a sign advertising that wage at the entrance to a plant in Springdale.
ďÖ in reality thatís only for the toughest, least popular jobs such as deboning,Ē the Guardian report says.
If you read this column regularly, you know that I believe in aggressive journalism. But I also believe that objectivity and accuracy are the two most important building blocks for quality journalism.
I donít believe that Tyson is without sin as a corporation. It has paid millions in fines over environmental violations and certainly not every employee is treated as well as the ones I spoke with recently.
But I donít believe the stories of employees being systemically mistreated, I donít believe there are cockroaches all over the Green Forest plant and I donít believe the Guardian report was anything other than a subjective, biased smear piece.
In many ways, Tyson has been the engine that drives our local economy for 50 years. Itís impossible to calculate the financial impact Tyson has had on Carroll County, or the stable livelihood it has provided to thousands upon thousands of our friends and neighbors. As far as Iím concerned, thatís the real story.