Thomas White's story


Photo of Thomas WhiteImagine fighting your employer for twelve years, just to be paid for all of the hours you worked. That’s how long Thomas White had to fight to get Tyson Foods to pay him overtime. 
 
Thomas White worked for Tyson Foods in its Berlin, Maryland, chicken processing plant from 1990 to 2003. Over the years, Tyson paid him for time worked on the line, managing machines and processing chicken. 
 
They did not pay him for the time it took to put on and clean safety and sanitation gear or wait in a long line to collect equipment at the beginning of shifts and breaks. 
 
Nor did they pay him to remove and clean the gear or clean equipment at the end of shifts and breaks. 
 
Even though these were required tasks, Tyson didn’t pay Mr. White to do them. 
 
Mr. White wasn’t the only person treated this way. Tyson made a practice of not paying employees for all of the time worked, including overtime. Nor did they record all of the time their employees worked.
 
With the support of people like you, Thomas White and thousands of other poultry processing plant workers filed a nationwide collective action lawsuit back in 1999 against Tyson, represented by the Public Justice Center and a coalition of law firms. 
 
Even after the court said no to a company-wide case, Mr. White and the others didn’t give up. In 2007, Mr. White filed a new case for those who worked in the Berlin plant, while other workers filed separate cases at the company’s other plants.
 
The cases stretched on and on, as big lawsuits often do. But twelve years later, in 2011, the cases finally settled in favor of Thomas White and the rest of the workers. Tyson had to pay over $15 million in back wages and damages to more than 11,000 workers. 
 
After a long, hard fight, Mr. White finally got twice the overtime he’d earned and hadn’t been paid. 
 
The generosity of people like you helped make this remarkable victory possible.
 
Unfortunately, Tyson isn’t alone. Too many companies treat workers unfairly. 
 
You can help address such abuses. With your support, the PJC advocates in the courts and legislature to take on employers who fail to pay their employees what they’ve earned.
 
You can stand with tenacious people like Thomas White for the rights of low-wage workers. Please make a gift today. Thank you.
 
Photo by Marshall Clarke