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August 23, 2005

Tyson Foods sued for "Whites Only" bathroom

Tyson Sued for Maintaining Segregated Work Areas: 'Whites Only' Sign and Padlock Placed on Bathroom Door

ASHLAND, Ala., Aug. 11 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A lawsuit filed today alleges that Tyson Foods Inc. is responsible for maintaining a segregated bathroom and break room, reminiscent of the Jim Crow era, in its Ashland, Ala. chicken processing plant. Twelve African-American employees filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, alleging that a "Whites Only" sign and a padlock denied them access to a bathroom in the Ashland plant. The complaint states that numerous white employees had keys to the bathroom that were not provided to African-American workers.

The African-American employees' complaint also alleges that, after they complained about the segregated bathroom, the plant manager told them that the bathroom had been locked because they were "dirty" and announced the closing of the break room. According to the complaint, the same white employees who had keys to the "Whites Only" bathroom formed their own, private break room, using Tyson materials to construct the furniture. Initially, a locked door segregated the private break room. To the present day, locked cabinets and a locked refrigerator maintain a private break room. [US Newswire]

Via Peter Daou's News Unfiltered.


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From US Newswire via Majikthise. ASHLAND, Ala., Aug. 11 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A lawsuit filed today alleges that Tyson Foods Inc. is responsible for maintaining a segregated bathroom and break room, reminiscent of the Jim Crow era, in its Ashland,... [Read More]


Unbelievable, but maybe too unbelievable. The link looks like a plaintiff's news release, so it would be important to hear what the other side claims before passing judgment.

Didn't Tyson have to pay a pretty huge fine a few years ago for continuing to hire illegal workers?

And didn't they kill several of their workers back in the 1990s because they padlocked the emergency doors and the workers were unable to get out when there was a fire on the line?

What the hell does it take to get a company shut down, anyway?

Yes this is the press release from the plantif's lawyers, so nothing has been proven yet, but given Tyson's history, the charge is more than credible.


The fire you're talking about happened at a processing plant owned by Imperial Foods. It was in Hamlet, NC, on 9/3/91, and 25 people were killed. The incident put Imperial Foods out of business. A couple of years later, Gingrich and co. were slashing OSHA's budget, and Clinton was pushing reforms that would make the agency more "business friendly."


Here's the Tyson release:

Tyson Responds to Discrimination Claims

August 12, 2005 – Tyson Foods today provided the following statement to the news media in response to discrimination claims in litigation filed against the company. The legal action alleges the posting of a “Whites Only” sign on a Tyson restroom at the company’s Ashland, Alabama, poultry plant.

“We’re surprised and disappointed by this legal action and firmly believe the charges are without merit.

Our company has zero tolerance for discrimination in the workplace. Once we learn of possible discrimination it’s immediately investigated and disciplinary action is taken when warranted. The presence of any sign suggesting “whites only” or segregation of any kind is, without a doubt, a violation of our corporate policies and contrary to our corporate culture. It is not and never will be condoned or tolerated by Tyson Foods or our management team.

We have always cooperated with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and have been in this matter, so we’re shocked by the agency’s decision to file a lawsuit. In addition to policies prohibiting discrimination, we have a corporate code of conduct as well as dignity and respect training aimed at ensuring our Team Members are treated properly.

The Ashland matter involved a restroom in a maintenance shop at the plant, which is a chicken processing complex that employs approximately 300 people.”

Of course, that's a long winded way of saying that they have no idea whether or not the allegations are true.

In most cases, a lawsuit that alleges these sorts of facts (easily controvertible, if completely untrue), filed against a major corporation like Tyson, doesn't get this far if it's completely without merit.

Since being named chair of the EEOC (the agency that filed suit), Cari Dominguez has moved the agency aggressively away from litigating discrimination complaints, preferring to find remedies through mediation instead. This is especially true with regard to complaints against large corporations. It's hard for me to see the agency filing this suit without first gathering substantial evidence.

We'll see what information is uncovered in the coming investigation, but I'd be very surprised if the charges turn out to be baseless.

The good news is, once this case is settled we can go back to pretending that discrimination is no longer a problem in this country.

Big fat southern democrat.

This is clearly due to the permissive atmosphere engendered by the Bush Administration. A true sign of moral decline if you ask me.

"Big fat southern Democrat"

You must be talking about Bill Clinton. Tyson Foods corporate originated in Arkansas and always has been a big time Clinton political and financial supporter. Just think how bad things might really be in the Tyson plants if there was no Clinton connection!

I posted last week about this case, as it relates to Tyson's set of "core values" (see
Since then, Tyson Foods has visited my blog many times. Someone is pretty interesting in tracking/damage control.

Elisa, same here --- I posted this a week or so ago, and have had daily visits from Tyson's since.

So ... might as well take advanrage of the opportunity: Hey Tyson! Quit dumping chicken shit and polluting the Illinois, not to mention our groundwater and aquifir!

"Cari Dominguez has moved the agency aggressively away from litigating discrimination complaints, preferring to find remedies through mediation instead. This is especially true with regard to complaints against large corporations. It's hard for me to see the agency filing this suit without first gathering substantial evidence"

Well, actualy, Tyson is known for supporting Democrats like Clinton, so maybe that accounts for why this case was singled out for vigorous prosecution. From Tyson's nondenial, though, it sounds like the incident actually happened, and that Tyson's only defense is to blame its employees and claim the corporation didn't condone it.


According to the Arkansas News Bureau, 65% of Tyson's political donations went to Republicans in 2003 and 2004, so I'm pretty sure this lawsuit isn't payback for being overgenerous with Democrats.

Like most firms, Tyson tends to give to whomever has the most influence in their sector and in their area of operations. That means that they give most generously to members of the agriculture committees and to Arkansas politicians. When the Democrats were in firm control of Arkansas politics and both houses of congress, they got the bulk of Tyson's money. Now that Republicans are more successful in Arkansas and in the national legislature, GOP politicians are benefitting.

I think that this suit was filed for three reasons:

1. The allegations are so outrageous that they demanded a tough response from the EEOC. Imagine what we'd be saying if the agency were openly avoiding a lawsuit.

2. The allegations are so outrageous that Tyson must make a big show of disbelieving them. I can't imagine that anyone at corporate HQ knew that there was a designated "whites only" bathroom at this processing plant, but they seem to feel the need to let everyone know that they believed they had an airtight antidiscrimination policy in place. They may be afraid that if they settle too early, it will look like they're not too surprised that this happened. Also, there's the risk that if they settle right away, it will look as if they think that they're just buying off the plaintiffs, rather than seriously reassessing their safeguards against discrimination.

3. Most major corporations seem to have a mindset that if they make it too easy to get satisfaction on a legitimate claim, it will encourage frivolous claims. I'm not saying that they are yet convinced that this claim is legitimate, I'm saying that they will probably spend more money investigating and litigating the claim than they would have to give up if they just settled the claim tomorrow.

I am a Tyson grower and in our local plant Tyson tried to pin the illegal alien smuggling scheme on a lower manager who was later found dead supposedly committing suicide with a rifle in a field. We had a Mexican who was pushed so hard that he went into the plant wanting to kill the managers. He got two shots off before being disarmed. We had a farmer pull a pistol on the Tyson catch crew for destroying his property (they are notorious for breaking things and not fixing them). It is my experience that the regulatory agency supposedly over them are either incompetent or corrupt (GIPSA-Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration). All the farmers are being screwed and Tyson is breaking the laws meant to protect us. If you say anything or complain they give you bad chickens (which makes you lose money) or cut you off. Either way we are screwed. I fear more violence as EVERYONE is mad at them and no relief. Most cases get held up in court or at the Justice Department. Arlen Specter, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee represented Frank Perdue, the East Coast chicken magnate before he became governor and has secretly squashed all attempts at reform and justice. Committee Ag. Chairs are paid off by the Broiler Council, a group of the big chicken companies. Tyson swings the cattle market (Pickett case) and the price of chicken goes up. Through their corrupt pay system the farmer's pay goes down. They pay new farmers more per lb. to get in. It is a real scam. They put arsenic in the chicken feed to help feed conversions and antibiotics in the feed to make the chickens convert feed better. Antibiotic resistant e-coli and others develop and put farm families at risk. We have to do better.

Does anyone know what the outcome of the case was? I can't seem to find any information about it.

fuck yeah!!!!!!!! i hope every bathroom says whites only in the future!!!!!!!!

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