Tyson Foods hires migrants to do ‘dirty work’

For politicians in Washington and New York, the flow of asylum seekers represents an intractable problem with no easy answers; However, with companies like Tyson Foods struggling to fill jobs with a US unemployment rate of 3.9 percent, migrants present an opportunity.

Tyson joins nonprofit Tent Partnership for Refugees — founded by Chobani yogurt magnate Hamdi Ulukaya — with plan to hire some of the 181,400 immigrants who have gone through the New York admissions system in the last two years. The meat company already employs about 42,000 immigrants among its US workforce of 120,000.

“We would like to employ another 42,000 if we could find them,” said Garrett Dolan, who leads Tyson’s efforts to eliminate employment barriers such as immigration status or the need for child care and daycare.

Last month, Tyson officials met with immigrants at Chobani’s offices in Manhattan and They hired 17 asylum seekers coming from Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia for work at its plant in Humboldt, Tennessee. Last week he hired 70 more.

This action could point the way to a partial solution to address labor shortages in businesses, as well as the challenge of finding work for eligible immigrants. Tent is also working with four other companies looking to hire immigrants, including airline food packaging company Gategroup Holding AG, backed by Singapore investment fund Temasek. Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has partnered with Tent to support refugee populations.

Asylum seekers are usually eligible to receive work permits 180 days after applying for legal status, although some may receive them sooner. Many will wait years before receiving their first immigration permit.

Tyson is constantly looking for workers to fill jobs in its factories, in tasks such as wash the meat, place the cuts on trays and make a final inspection for bones. Dolan says the company expects that about 40 percent of the 100,000 people who fill these roles will leave each year, a statistic he says is common throughout the meat industry. To satisfy this need, he said, Tyson plans to hire about 52 thousand people in that wage class — which starts at $16.50 an hour, plus benefits — only in 2024.

“We are coming to the conclusion that there will be few Americans working in labor-manufacturing jobs,” Dolan said. A large portion of the new hires “will come from refugees and immigrants, so we are now thinking strategically about that.”

The food industry has long been a destination for immigrants, and has a checkered history of labor and workplace safety violations. Last year, Tyson and Perdue Farms were among food producers investigated by the US Department of Labor after a New York Times report found that contractors illegally employed immigrant children in company plants. The company states that it has zero tolerance for child labor and does not allow the employment of children under 18 years of age in any of its facilities.

Tyson is also investing in retaining immigrant workers, having committed $1.5 million a year to legal aid services in 2023 and 2024 and providing paid time off for workers to attend court hearings. Last year, Tyson paid 1,317 workers to obtain U.S. citizenship.

Hired immigrants and other new workers receive daycare and transportation services, as well as English classes for those who wish. The company provides its new New York employees with temporary housing, a relocation stipend, and paid time off to better acclimate to their new life in Humboldt.

“They are very, very loyal,” Dolan says. “They have been uprooted and what they want is stability; What they want is a feeling of belonging.”