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Tyson rejects shareholder call for audit into child labor allegations

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Shareholders and labor groups are accusing Tyson Foods of not taking seriously enough reports of children being employed at some of its meatpacking plants. The meat and poultry processing giant, along with competitor Perdue Farms, are under federal investigation for alleged violations by the Department of Labor. 

Last week, Tyson held a shareholder meeting at its headquarters in Arkansas. Members from the labor advocacy group Venceremos — which protested at the company last October in response to the child labor allegations — attended the meeting. Faith-based organization the American Baptist Home Mission Society, a Tyson shareholder, also was in attendance.

Both groups demanded the company conduct an audit into child labor at its plants and provide more transparency about how it is combating the issue.

“The recent revelations of illegal middle school child labor in Tyson’s plants performing and being injured from hazardous cleaning duties combined with the allegations of vulnerable immigrant children catching chickens on Tyson’s contracted chicken farms, are unacceptable,” the ABHMS said in a statement.

At the meeting last Thursday, Tyson investors voted not to conduct a further audit into its child labor prevention efforts, after a majority voted against the proposal.

Magaly Licolli, the director of Venceremos, said in an interview Tyson did not engage with investors who wanted to ask questions about the proposed audit at the meeting. She also stated the company did not provide paper to write down questions.

“It’s pretty much just 20 minutes, chop chop chop, it’s done,” Licolli said. “It’s not really a space for the company to engage with investors.”

In an emailed statement, a Tyson spokesperson dismissed Venceremos’ allegations. The company characterized Licolli’s assertion that there were no pens and papers available for attendees as “simply false.” Tyson maintains that it has a zero-tolerance policy for child labor.

“As for our company’s engagement with investors, while the annual shareholder meeting is one way to interact with the company, Tyson Foods meets with numerous stakeholders via other forums throughout the year,” the poultry giant said.

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