Secrecy and Withholding of Information Characterize Move of Tyson Foods Plant into Humboldt, Tennessee

By Chris Alto  |   The Tennessee Star

Gibson County Mayor Tom “Welcoming” Witherspoon and Humboldt Mayor Marvin Sikes claim that only positive impacts will result from the arrival of the Tyson Foods chicken plant, first rejected in Tonganoxie, Kansas, but now being relocated to Humboldt, Tennessee.

The plan to put the plant in Tonganoxie was defeated by citizen-led opposition because of concerns of Tyson’s history of environmental violations, impact on infrastructure and potential to attract refugee workers.

Opposition to the Kansas plant also focused on the secrecy surrounding the plan for Tonganoxie and withholding of information from public scrutiny.

Twilight Greenaway, reporting at Moyers & Company, the website operated by far left journalist Bill Moyers, described the citizen-led opposition in Tonganoxie as “staggering” and fueled in part by the secrecy in which the deal was arranged between Tyson executives and local officials until information was finally made public.

As Greenaway reported:

The Tyson plant was also a long-kept secret with the code name Project Sunset. Local lawmakers were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements when considering welcoming it to town, and the company is said to have worked through intermediaries when negotiating with the landowner over the 300-acre lot it would occupy.

But once the deal was done and the plan was made public, word traveled fast, and residents of the town started a group called Citizens Against Project Sunset (CAPS) and threw up a “No Tyson in Tongie” Facebook group that swelled to over 5,000 members. By last Friday, 2,500 people had gathered in a city park to oppose the development.

Then, on Monday, the Leavenworth County commissioners had rescinded its offer to pledge $500 million in revenue bonds for the facility. The next day, Tyson sent a letter to the county announcing that it had put the plans for the plant on hold.

To learn more about Tyson’s move to Humboldt and possible changes it might bring based on the experience of other towns where Tyson operates, The Tennessee Star submitted written questions to both Humboldt Mayor Marvin Sikes and Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson. Both were asked to respond in writing.

Over the course of almost a week, neither Mayor Sikes nor Mr. Mickelson have responded.

Mayor Sikes was asked:

  1. Were you aware that before Tyson Foods proposed the plant for Humboldt, it had proposed a plant in Tonganoxie, Kansas which was rejected based on residents organizing against it?
  2. Did Tyson Foods make the first inquiry about locating in Humboldt or was that made by you, a representative from the TN Dept. of ECD, or the mayor of Gibson County?
  3. What guarantees if any, did Tyson provide about hiring from the locally available workforce?
  4. Has any Tyson representative been asked about its practice of attracting and hiring refugee workers? If the question was raised, what were you told? What do you think would be the reaction locally if refugees relocate for jobs at the Humboldt plant?
  5. Are you aware that several years ago, the Tyson’s HR manager served on the board of a Nashville-based refugee resettlement agency?

Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson was asked:

  1. Does Tyson Foods have a policy that requires proof of negative TB testing results for workers handling food products? If not, are you aware of any guideline, policy, rule, etc that requires TB testing for workers handling food products in production facilities?
  2. I have read that Tyson employs translators in some of its plants to assist with communication needs of non-English speaking workers. Approximately how many translators and for what languages does Tyson employ across its plants in Tennessee?
  3. Approximately how many refugee workers are employed at each plant in Tennessee?

Tyson Foods currently operates in four facilities located in Tennesseee: Shelbyville, Newbern, Goodlettsville, and Union City.

Read More
%d bloggers like this: