In the first quarter of 2018, CBIS attended the Sanderson Farms annual shareholders’ meeting in Mississippi and spoke with CEO and Chairman Joe Sanderson, who agreed to meet with CBIS later in the year to discuss labor and safety concerns.
In the third quarter of 2017, CBIS filed a shareholder resolution on shareholders’ ability to nominate board members on the company’s own proxy ballot materials. We made clear to the board that our priority was nominating directors with worker rights and health and safety expertise critical to both industry success and addressing the risks we were raising. Before our proposal went to a vote, Sanderson Farms agreed to amend its bylaws to allow for proxy access. CBIS withdrew the resolution, and we continue to press the company on improving its workplace practices and treatment of vulnerable workers, including refugees.
Chicken is the most popular meat in America, and while profits in the poultry industry have risen rapidly, improvements in working conditions on processing lines have not kept pace with growth. Due to high turnover and challenging conditions, plants often employ economically vulnerable populations who are afraid to speak about conditions and risk their employment.
Sanderson Farms is the third largest poultry producer in the US and has the ability to implement changes that would improve the conditions and safety for poultry workers across the country. Our goal for the engagement is to encourage Sanderson Farms to improve working conditions on poultry processing lines to combat injury and illness and provide adequate breaks for employees, including:
- Reporting on worker safety figures, workforce make-up, worker turnover, and workforce satisfaction,
- Implementing employee cross-training to alleviate repetitive motion risks, and
- Hiring floating workers to allow for rest breaks for employees and breaks to sharpen tools.
CBIS has interviewed NGO, union, and occupational safety experts in the industry to develop strong background on key issues and potential solutions. We also attended an invite-only meeting of poultry workers froma cross the U.S. to hear directly of concerns across poultry processing plants.