By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO (Reuters) -About 150 employees of a Tyson Foods Inc chicken plant in Arkansas went on strike on Monday for better treatment before the company shuts the facility, an organizer said.
Tyson plans to close the plant in Van Buren, Arkansas, on May 12, eliminating jobs for 969 non-union employees, as it seeks to improve performance in its chicken business.
Employees refused to work in part because Tyson said they would not receive full payouts for vacation time they accrued, said Magaly Licolli, director of Venceremos, an organization that advocates for poultry workers in Arkansas. She said the strike may continue on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Tyson told Reuters later on Monday it already had a policy in place to give full payouts to employees with unused vacation or holiday time. The company said it will also pay a bonus of $1,000 to workers who stay in their jobs until the plant closes.
Some employees quit after Tyson announced the plant would close, leaving more work for fewer employees, Licolli said. Employees who previously suffered injuries on the job worry they will struggle to find work elsewhere, she said.
Among those protesting was Maritza Sandoval, 52, who said she suffered elbow and knee injuries from working at the plant for more than 14 years.
“We are being treated really bad,” Sandoval said.
Tyson has offered to transfer plant workers to another facility in Texas, with compensation for relocating, but many do not want to uproot their lives or their families, Licolli said.
Tyson said in an email that it is offering employees relocation support to work at other facilities in Arkansas as well.
The company has also received pushback over a plan to shut a chicken plant in Glen Allen, Virginia, with 692 employees and said it will shift demand to other facilities from the plants it is closing.
Last month, Tyson said the closures were part of a strategy to operate its remaining plants at full capacity.
(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Josie Kao and Aurora Ellis)