Tyson Foods is huge: 115,000 workers in 400 locations around the country including Texas. A powerhouse in the industry and, perhaps, in government too.
A new investigation by ProPublica and NPR suggests Tyson is at the forefront of a major push to trim more than just fat from workers’ compensation. ProPublica’s Michael Grabell says while a lot of companies lobby local and national governments, Tyson is taking it to a whole new level.
“In one case, in which a governor tried to push out the chief workers’ comp judge, Tyson actually wrote talking points for the governor to defend his decision,” Grabell says. “In other places they’ve made sort of creative legal arguments that really kind of push the edge of what law is.”
Tyson is the second-largest meat-packer in the world and the largest chicken and beef producer in the U.S. But meat packing plants are dangerous places, Grabell says.
“It’s a very labor-intensive work and they spend about $105 million in workers’ comp every year,” he says. “In addition to that, most companies will just outsource this to an insurance company – let them deal with it. Tyson self-insures.”
That means the company pays claims out of its own pocket.
“Tyson does something that’s unique to Texas in that they have dropped out of the workers’ comp system and created their own injury benefit plan that they completely control outside of state oversight,” Grabell says.
Tyson has a lot more at stake then a normal company might, Grabell says.
While nothing in Grabell’s research suggests Tyson does anything outright illegal – companies can go very far in donating their money and having their voice heard – he says the company often has a direct line to government officials’ ears.
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.