CHICAGO, December 24—Golin/Harris International is helping longtime client Tyson Foods with a new public relations challenge as the company faces an indictment that alleges it conspired to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border to work in its processing plants.
Tyson, the nation’s largest meat producer and processor, has a troubled history when it comes to labor practices. In 1999, the company was fined for child labor violations after the death of a 15-year-old worker, and this summer the company signed an agreement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to improve safety conditions at several plants in the south. The company also pleaded guilty in 1997 to making illegal gifts to Mike Espy, agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration.
The new 36-count indictment accuses Tyson of arranging to transport illegal immigrants across the Mexican border and helping them secure counterfeit work papers for jobs at more than a dozen Tyson plants. The indictment included six Tyson employees, who could face prison sentences if convicted.
Tyson says the case involved a handful of managers operating outside of company policy, and that the six had been dismissed or placed on administrative leave. “No one in the corporate offices knew of this,” a lawyer for the company told The New York Times.
Keith Burton, an expert in labor relations issues and general manager of Golin’s Chicago office, is leading the company’s work on behalf of Tyson. Golin had previously helped Tyson a new four-year, $10 million cause related marketing program with the anti-hunger charity Share Our Strength. The firm has also handled a Cooking Smart program designed to position Tyson as a leader in food safety issues.