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More than 1,000 meatpacking workers in Graves County receive pay raise

Aerial shot of Pilgrim’s facility in Graves County.
Graves County Economic Development
Aerial shot of Pilgrim’s facility in Graves County.

More than 1,000 meatpacking workers in Graves County will receive a pay raise as a part of negotiations with the union representing workers. This should provide an economic boost as other employers in the county are still dealing with the aftermath of last month’s deadly tornado.

The $2-an-hour raise would increase starting salaries at the Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Hickory to $16.50, representing a $4.5 million investment by the corporation, according to a Pilgrim’s Pride release. This follows a $1 million contribution made by the corporation to help with rebuilding efforts in the region.

“The community of Mayfield has suffered through an incredibly challenging time and as a critical employer in the county, Pilgrim’s is committed to help bring back Mayfield stronger than ever,” said Pilgrim’s Pride CEO Fabio Sandri in a statement.

The corporation previously said that one Pilgrim’s Pride hatchery was a total loss due to the tornado, and another hatchery could be offline heading into the spring. A Pilgrim's Pride spokesperson said other hatcheries are providing chickens to local farmers while repairs are made.

Caitlin Blair, a spokesperson for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227, said employees began working at the meatpacking plant in Hickory just days after an EF-4 tornado devastated the county seat of Mayfield about six miles away. She said negotiations for a raise happened quickly in recent weeks from a desire by Pilgrim’s Pride to hire more employees.

“This was the result of the union using the power that workers have today to secure this increase for people who’ve really earned it,” Blair said.

This is as other businesses and employers in Graves County are still reeling from tornado destruction.

Another major employer, a local candle factory, had their facility demolished by the tornado. Mayfield Consumer Products is laying off about half of its approximate 500 workers and move the other half to a new facility in Hickory because of the destruction. The Small Business Administration has also made more than $20 million in loans available to hard-hit communities across the state.

Another meatpacking plant in Henderson County represented by UFCW Local 227 is also seeing 200 employees being laid off due to changes in consumer demands, according to Tyson Foods.

A Pilgrim's Pride spokesperson told WKMS News there are about 230 job openings at the Hickory plant, and that "labor continues to be a challenge." The hiring manager for the plant has been reaching out to displaced workers through the local Chamber of Commerce and other local entities, according to the spokesperson.

Those interested in a job at the Pilgrim’s Pride plant are encouraged to call the plant directly at 270-251-7700.

This story has been updated with commentary from a Pilgrim's Pride spokesperson.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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