Everyone has a stake in the Tyson strike in Jefferson.
Whose strike is it anyway?
The eight-month long, gut-wrenching strike just a few miles down the road from Madison and Milwaukee between Tyson and more than 400 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers is a strike for all of us.
It is one of the worst cases you will find of American Big Business abusing its workers. It is the fat cats not being satisfied after a fine meal, but going to the vomitorium to regurgitate so they can eat even more - not caring that those whose work made them wealthy, and their families, are going hungry.
Tyson is a giant corporation, marketing their goods under a variety of labels. No family deserves what Tyson markets. Tyson is without a conscience, taking advantage of anyone and anything to turn a greater profit. If human beings are caught in the Tyson machine, the corporation could care less. To them, people hurt by the Tyson greed are collateral damage.
Most of the workers in Jefferson, Wisconsin's Tyson plant began their employment when the plant was one of the quality locally owned employers in Jefferson. Generations of Jefferson-area families had worked for the company. The wages and benefits earned provided a good living for the families. There was labor peace—excellent relations between the union and the company. Those who worked together played together and prayed together. Jefferson is a tight community.
Tyson's greed has been reaching across America over the past decade. They have been buying up small businesses at an alarming rate. Tyson's research showed that this Jefferson plant turned a good profit and had an excellent, dedicated work force. What more could a giant like Tyson want? Well, like its Arkansas partner, Wal-Mart, Tyson could only lick its chops in determining that they could take more money back to their corporate headquarters by caring less about the small town in Wisconsin that they took by storm.
With the money they take from the workers, Tyson CEO John Tyson his upper echelon managers can buy their fifth and sixth resort homes, bigger boats, and another corporate plane to get them quickly to their mountain retreats. All they have to do is break the union and force the workers to produce even more for less.
Like most employers, Tyson does not understand that positive reinforcement, caring employment relations, and good wages and benefits are an investment in employees who produce many times over for the company. No, Tyson wants more for less. The take-backs at first broke the spirit of the workers: Tyson proposes lower entry-level wages, that employees pay more for their negotiated health insurance, that they have to work longer to qualify for their pensions.
Where do people in such a small town go to replace employment they counted on for the rest of their working days? Where does one turn to replace fringe benefits which have been cumulatively gained by union bargaining, with a former employer who knew the value of being a good employer, and employees building contract upon contract?
This is why the strike against Tyson is everyone’s strike. If we enable Tyson to win, by not giving our support to our brothers and sisters who are on the line daily, 24/7, it is but one more domino in corporate America's war against the American worker.
What can you do? Stop by the picket line to visit and show your support. Adopt a striking family by making a monthly pledge of $10, $25 or $50 dollars. The union will distribute these funds to enable strikers to meet the usual family expenses of food, clothing and mortgage/rent payments while they carry on our battle against Tyson.
Finally, if it is not clear as you buy food for your family, ask the grocer or restaurant manager the maker of the product you would like to buy. If it is Tyson, say "no thanks." Some Tyson products are sold under the labels Golden Trophy, Deuschmacher, DFG, Rosani, Corn King, Black Gold, Arctic Alaska, TNT Crust, Jacks, Tombstone and DiGiorno Pizzas, and Schwans Foods.
John Tyson's salary last year was close to $8 million, and Tyson had $23 billion in sales. This was not enough for Tyson and Tyson. They want the clothes on the backs of Tyson workers and the food off their families’ tables. It is time each and every one of us says to Tyson, "Enough is enough. An injury to one is an injury to all. Tyson greed stops here!"
Let us each pledge solidarity to our UFCW brothers and sisters. Let us assure them that this is our fight, too. Let them know we are with them and we will do our part to win our strike.
October 21, 2003
post a letter about this article »
read letters on this article (0)
John Matthews is executive director of Madison Teachers, Inc., a FightingBob.com contributing editor, and a member of the Fighting Bob, Inc. board of directors.