Upset Texas Pilgrim’s Pride employees complain about Burmese refugee workers
Posted by Christopher Coen on February 8, 2011
Employees of a Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in Nacogdoches, Texas (in east Texas between Dallas and Houston) are e-mailing and blogging media outlets to complain about new Burmese refugee workers. Officials at the plant with 4000 workers say there are another 3,500 jobs in meat processing plants within 30 miles of the company, so that the companies have depleted the local labor market, and after advertising for employees for two years they still couldn’t fill the spots. The company decided to hire more than two hundred Burmese refugees to fill the gap.
Locals contend, however, that the company is not offering a wage that is attractive to citizens, and that working conditions include 10-12 hours without a break, and if a worker doesn’t show up plant officials require other workers to work their shift. If they don’t, the company considers it leaving early even though the employee has already completed his/her shift. Also, if workers are sick the company does not give them time off even though the law requires companies with over 50 workers to give employees emergency leave. Others claim the company has placed the refugees in housing that consists of a run-down former nursing home. Counterarguments are found in comments and blogs, here, here and here An article at the KTRE ABC Channel 9 website tells more.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) – Inside Pilgrim’s Pride, ten Burmese refugees are learning how to process poultry. Yesterday was orientation. Today, training began.
At the end of the day, the workers came off their shift tired, but satisfied.
” Great first day because this is the first day in this company that I work. Very, very good,” said Ma Thi Yar, the group’s trainer.
“They have refugee status which is a special status under our laws that give them a right to work here,” said John Thomasson, human resources manager at Pilgrim’s Pride.
Yar guided the group of ten workers through their first day. They arrive from various Texas cities, but most have lived in Houston for six months to two years. Most are in their early 20′s. Like many young men their age, they’re wanting to start a new future…
…For now the group is living in a boarding home, a former alcohol treatment facility. Each week they’ll be joined by others with similar pasts and similar goals. Additional arrivals are expected each week. Pilgrim’s is hiring the workers to launch a new manual poultry deboning line.
The company says it offers jobs to anyone, but the local qualified job market is depleted. They call the Burma connection an innovative approach for economic development.
“We have great benefits here at Pilgrim’s,” Thomasson said. ”We have very competitive kinds of packages and those are the kinds of things we offer to the refugees, just like we would offer them to anyone else.”
Already, upset Pilgrim’s Pride employees have begun e-mailing and blogging media outlets. One wrote temporary workers were sent home early yesterday and the Burmese stepped in their place. Thomasson said today no employee has been sent home in order to make room for the Burmese.
“We’re going to Houston and other places in the U.S. to bring in workers who have an absolute right to work here. So we’re just casting the net among other residents in the United States for potential employees.
The Burmese fill in the gap as they start a new life in a new city and a new country… Read more here
Once again we seem to have refugees stuck between a company and its disgruntled workers.