The announcement in November that Humboldt, Tennessee is getting the Tyson Foods plant that was rejected by citizens in Tonganoxie, Kansas, raises legitimate questions about whether the new plant will attract refugee workers to the area.
In their press release, Tyson Foods said the company had “accepted the invitation of city, county and state leaders to build a new chicken production complex in the City of Humboldt, which is part of Gibson County in western Tennessee,” and included words of praise from Humboldt Mayor Mavin Sikes, Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon, a Democrat who has endorsed Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd in the Republican gubernatorial primary, and Gov. Bill Haslam:
“This is an historic day for Humboldt, Gibson County and West Tennessee,” Humboldt Mayor Marvin Sikes said. “I want to thank Tyson Foods for their commitment to our community and region. The significant job creation and capital investment that will result from this project will have a positive impact on our community that will last for many years, and I could not be more excited about the future of Humboldt and Gibson County.”
“Many years of dedicated work from countless Gibson County citizens and volunteers have laid the foundation for the arrival of this day,” Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon said. “There is not a doubt in my mind that Tyson Foods’ tremendous job creation and capital investment will have a long lasting, positive impact in Gibson County that will ring in a new era of economic growth bringing opportunity for all of our citizens.” . . .
“I want to thank Tyson Foods for choosing Humboldt as the location for its new operations and for creating more than 1,500 new jobs in Gibson County,” Governor Bill Haslam said. “The new facility will be Tyson’s fifth location in Tennessee and it means a great deal that a company of this magnitude will continue to grow its footprint in our state. I appreciate Tyson for its continued commitment to Tennessee and for helping us become one step closer to our goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”
“Including Union City, the company currently operates four facilities in the state, employing about 5,000 with an annual payroll of more than $181 million,” the Tyson Foods statement continued.
One of those four facilities is located in Shelbyville, Tennessee, a small Tennessee community that offers a troubling case study of just what kind of an impact the arrival of refugees who work at a local food processing facility can have on a community.
Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon, a champion of the new Tyson Foods plant in Humboldt, recently defended the plan by demonizing those who posed legitimate questions based on the experience of countless cities and towns across the country who have become home to new food plants and seen an inflow of refugee workers. It is a tactic popularized by groups like Welcoming Tennessee and the larger Welcoming America network.
If we allow ourselves to run our country or our county based on fear of others or fear of the unknown, we are going to fall.
Nationally networked Welcoming America (WA) grew out of Welcoming Tennessee, an initiative launched in 2005 by the Nashville-based TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). TIRRC and the WA initiative received funding from George Soros foundations.
Among the accomplishments listed on its website, Welcoming Tennessee takes credit for helping to produce “Welcome to Shelbyville,”‘ a film they describe as documenting Welcoming Tennessee’s “positive impact on the Shelbyville community.”
The New York Times, however, categorized the film as propaganda.
Brian Mosely, a former reporter for the Shelbyville Times-Gazette (T-G), who wrote an award-winning series about the impact and culture clashes between Somali newcomers arriving to work at the Tyson Foods plant and the locals, is included in the film. He wrote:
I viewed the film twice in October of last year during its local premiere, and found the filmmaker’s depiction of myself and the stories published by the T-G to be a monstrous distortion, with an incredible series of blatant omissions and dishonest representations that was obviously designed only to advance the political agenda of the filmmakers and the progressive organizations that funded and supported its production.
According to Mosely, national attention turned to Shelbyville after T-G’s reporting about the union and Tyson having negotiated the removal of Labor Day as a paid holiday for union members at the Shelbyville plant, substituting instead, the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr. The decision was later reversed due in part to the intensity of the public’s reaction and input from local politicians.
‘Welcoming Witherspoon’s’ hometown paper called the reporting about the holiday flip fake news despite confirmation of the negotiated changes from a Tyson’s spokesman and union leader quoted in a T-G story.
Shortly after the “Welcome to Shelbyville” film was released, the U.S. State Department division that oversees the refugee resettlement program, arranged a showing to “credentialed members of the media” and also showcased the film in Nigeria.
Welcoming America, which describes itself as a “groundbreaking social change model,” and which for several years had a technical assistance grant with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, continues to use the film to convince communities that diversity through immigration is an enviable goal.
The Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE) which gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd joined as a named member, has partnered with Welcoming America to award cities “Gateways for Growth” grants to support using immigrants as part of an economic growth strategy. PNAE supports amnesty for illegal aliens, continued refugee resettlement and in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students.
PNAE’s report on “Labor-Intensive Industries” admits that they want to import more unskilled labor to fill American labor gaps in industries including meat-packing. This report, consistent with the earlier PNAE Tennessee specific report, also admits that:
real and persistent gaps in the American workforce have opened up, especially in agriculture, hospitality, and meatpacking. Foreign-born workers—a group considerably more likely than natives to lack education beyond high school—step in to fill those jobs that would otherwise remain vacant.
Media reporting on the growth of immigrant, primarily refugee immigrant labor in the meat-packing industry confirms the very reason for changes being made in plants including adding prayer rooms for Muslim employees and holiday observance accommodations, both of which were made at the Shelbyville Tyson Foods plant.
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