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Article

11 Feb 2021

Author:
Investor Advocates for Social Justice

Tyson dismisses shareholders’ human rights concerns at annual meeting

"Tyson dismisses shareholders’ human rights concerns at annual meeting," 11 February 2021

Once we get injured, we are worthless to the company, they see us as expendable, not as human beings,” stated Magaly Licolli of Venceremos as she presented the human rights due diligence proposal at Tyson’s annual general meeting (AGM) today. Filed by the American Baptist Home Mission Society and 22 co-filers, the proposal raised workers’ key concerns about Tyson’s insufficient COVID-19 protections and lack of meaningful worker engagement, which has contributed to over 12,500 worker COVID-19 cases and at least 39 deaths.

This presented a stark contrast to the remarks from Chairman John Tyson and CEO Dean Banks, who painted a false picture of how the company treats its employees. Tyson has called its team members “heroes,” yet the company has repeatedly failed to respect its workers’ human rights. 

Despite growing scrutiny of Tyson’s insufficient pandemic response efforts and misleading disclosures, Tyson’s lack of transparency and accountability was on full display at today’s AGM. Tyson failed to address concerns raised in the shareholder proposals on human rights due diligence, lobbying disclosure, and share voting, and the company did not disclose preliminary vote results. Investors were disappointed to see voting information withheld that was shared during prior AGMs. Choosing to be less transparent the year the company is facing widespread scrutiny is a concerning, yet unsurprising, move from Tyson.

Coupled with the dual-class share structure which allots 71% of the voting power to the Tyson limited Partnership, Tyson’s meeting format restricted the ability of independent investors to weigh in about severe human rights risks impacting workers and material financial risks to the company and its investors. The meeting provided no avenue for investors or stakeholders to pose questions or engage with management or the board, and it finished in less than 30 minutes. Five faith-based investors submitted questions about workers’ rights and COVID-19 response. Investors await written responses to questions about paid sick leave, wage stagnation, COVID-19 case counts, increased workload, and meaningful worker engagement.

Investors look forward to the publishing of the detailed vote results and anticipate an increase in support. Last year the proposal received majority support from independent investors, and investor pressure on Tyson to address its human rights impacts has only increased since then. Institutional investors including Norges Bank and CalSTRS also pre-declared support for the human rights due diligence proposal this year, which sends a signal about growing investor expectations around human rights due diligence, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis and racial justice uprising.

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