Our Working Lives


Originally published in the Winter/Spring 2023 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 71, printed March 22. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter/Spring 2023 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For other issues dating back to 2012, see the Full Issues page.

By Kat McNeal

This Tyson chicken processing plant in Glen Allen is slated to close May 12, costing nearly 700 workers their jobs. Photo by Kat McNeal.

Tyson Foods, the world’s second-largest meat processing company, informed its workers’ union on March 13 that it would be closing its plant in Glen Allen, Va. The company will permanently close the chicken hatching, broiler and processing plant on May 12, laying off all 692 workers.

According to a letter that Rick Nimrick, Vice President of Labor Relations at Tyson, sent to United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, which represents workers at the plant, the closure is “part of the Company’s business strategy to operate more efficiently.”

Tyson acquired the Glen Allen facility from another poultry company in the late 1980s. The meat processing giant operates another plant in Temperanceville, Va., and is building a new one in Danville. The Danville plant, which promises 376 new jobs, has received pledges of more than $6 million in state grants, loans and other economic incentives. According to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, because the closing of one plant is (supposedly) not related to the opening of the other, none of this public support is in jeopardy as a result of the mass layoffs.

The announcement came the same day that 34 workers, former employees and surviving family members from Tyson’s home state of Arkansas filed a lawsuit against the food giant. The plaintiffs, who are associated with five plants in Arkansas, allege that Tyson knew about the danger of COVID-19 early in the pandemic, but failed to provide masks, modify work to allow for appropriate distancing, practice contract tracing or allow quarantining. The lawsuit charges that these failures directly led to preventable illnesses and deaths.

Tyson will permanently close the Van Buren, Ark., plant, which employs 969 people, on the same day it will shutter the Glen Allen facility. The company, which made $3.2 billion in profits last fiscal year, attributes both closures to “a need for consolidation.”

UFCW Local 400 will be working to negotiate workforce transition matters such as severance and vacation payouts. Hanover County, where Glen Allen is located, has launched a website for any workers affected by the closure.

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