Tyson Investor Calls on Meat Producer to Perform Racial Audit††††
Saijel Kishan and Michael Hirtzer, Bloomberg News
Sep 3, 2021
(Bloomberg) -- Americaís biggest meat company is the latest to come under investor pressure to conduct an independent racial equity audit.
Tyson Foods Inc. should assess whether its policies and practices impact communities of color, according to a shareholder proposal from American Baptist Home Mission Society. Concerns include everything from a lack of opportunity for promotions for minorities, to allegations of discrimination and harrassment at the company. Tyson said it has established programs to support minorities, and even hired a chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
Recommendations for racial equity audits emerged in the last proxy-voting season following the civil unrest fueled by the murder of George Floyd last year. Investors filed resolutions with companies from Amazon.com Inc. to JPMorgan Chase & Co. to investigate whether their businesses were perpetuating racial discrimination. While the resolutions failed to pass, they garnered substantial support -- 44% of votes in Amazonís case -- and some companies like BlackRock Inc. agreed to conduct them. Starbucks Corp. and Airbnb Inc. already completed such audits.
Itís no surprise the meat industry is a target for such proposals. It relies on large numbers of minorities and immigrants for the grueling and sometimes dangerous work of slaughtering animals. When those meat plants became early hotspots in the Covid-19 outbreak last year, worker advocates complained that the disparities in the outbreak amounted to racial discrimination. Tyson said it has vigorously sought to protect its workers from the virus, spending $700 million to combat outbreaks and hiring a chief medical officer.
Tyson has had its share of diversity headaches. The company was accused of misleading interpreters about the severity of the virus outbreak at an Iowa pork plant and fired managers accused of betting on how many workers would get sick.
In a statement to Bloomberg, Tyson said...