From Madison Indymedia: http://madison.indymedia.org/feature/display/15364/index.php
December 6, 2003,
by Jim Cobb
Today, in the wake of the University of Wisconsin Regents vote last week to divest the University's approximate $200,000 holdings in Tyson Foods, about 50 people walked around the entrance gate blocking the street leading into a wealthy privatized neighborhood in order to picket at the home of David Jones, who sits on Tyson's Board of Directors and who is also CEO of Rayovac.
After nearly ten months, Tyson Foods still refuses to negotiate with the more than 400 strikers of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 538. The Strikers have been on strike at Tyson's facility in Jefferson, WI since February of 2003. The official announcement of the picket at Jones' home summarizes the Tyson Strikers' plight:
"As a member of our community, Jones has the moral responsibility to ensure that all the Tyson employees and their families get a decent wage and benefits . . . Jones has repeatedly said that he is "unavailable" to discuss issues of fairness with the strikers in Jefferson. Rayovac bought Jones this trophy home which overlooks the Bishops Bay Golf Course at the same time he pocketed $8 million in a stock scam and 250 Rayovac workers in Madison lost their jobs. Members of UFCW Local 538 went on strike because their families can't afford what Tyson demands: a cut of $2 an hour for all new employees; a freeze in wages for current workers; the elimination of pensions for all new employees; a freeze in pension benefits for current workers; and a shift in health care costs to employees making coverage unaffordable for many families and unaffordable for almost all families of new employees."
Bearing all sorts of signs and banners, many regional labor activists, including UW students, joined Tyson strikers in the street in front of Jones' home. They chanted and drummed in solidarity, and sang Christmas carols adapted to describe Tyson's unfair treatment of workers at the Jefferson facility.
The picket climaxed with the formation of a circular march that blocked Signature Dr., a privatized street, for around twenty minutes. However, picketers deliberately made room whenever any of Jones' neighbors wanted to pass through the picket in their vehicles.
While most of Jones' neighbors reacted with expressions of indifference or bewilderment as they drove through the picket line, some passed with smiles of surprise and even delight. Several women in one passing vehicle offered spirited cheers unmistakably in support of the picket. The scene remained peaceful and festive throughout.
Eventually, a deputy arrived, and he quickly found himself engaged in an ordinary discussion with a few of the picketers, one of whom later remarked that he felt the deputy had shown a genuine interest in the strikers' case. The atmosphere remained non-confrontational while the rest of the picketers kept up their festive circular march for about ten more minutes, after which time the picket concluded and folks strolled back toward the gate, some commenting that they were unsure whether or not Jones had been at home.
Background on the Tyson Strike: http://www.tysonfamiliesstandup.org/
Coverage of UW regents decision to divest UW holdings in Tyson: http://www.madison.com/captimes/news/stories/62754.php
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