P. O. Box 748
St Francis, KS 67756
January 31, 2004
Attn: Mr. Kyle Wingfield, Reporter
Dear Mr. Wingfield:
On January 27, 2004, Richard H. Gill, an attorney, issued a letter to me in care of Joe Whatley Esq., one of the attorneys representing plaintiffs in Pickett v Tyson et al., Case No. 96-A-1103 N, US District Court, MD Ala. This case is currently in trial, which commenced on January 12, 2004. Within a day or two of this, you wrote and distributed through Associated Press resources a story attributing the following quotation to me:
“These guys are nothing but old-time gangsters, thugs and thieves. They beat your brains in with their market power and take your money.”
Mr. Gill is a lawyer for Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. and Tyson Foods, Inc. as his letter to me makes clear. He understands your story to mean “these guys” as referring to Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.(formerly IBP, Inc.) and its parent company, Tyson Foods, Inc. His letter demands a retraction. A copy of his letter follows. I am writing to you because of Mr. Gill’s letter.
Let me begin by acknowledging that your quotation attributed to me is substantially accurate. I did intend to refer to both Tyson Foods and its Fresh Meats subsidiary.
During the trial, counsel for the defense confronted me on cross-examination with two letters to U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman (Pickett trial ex. 1526 & 1527). Both letters were republished by counsel for Tyson when they were publicly exposed in court while I testified. At least one of these letters contains comments substantially similar to what you wrote and attributed to me. I explained a part of these letters as I testified. Due to court rulings issued before the trial started, I was not able to explain all the contents from the witness stand. Please see the cross-examination and redirect examination portions of my trial testimony given on January 26, 2004. You may obtain a copy of this testimony from David A. Domina, Attorney for the Plaintiffs in Pickett v Tyson.
Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. (once IBP) and Tyson Foods, Inc. are gangsters
The term “gangsters” is often used to describe persons who act as a group and disregard the law to get their way.
Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. and Tyson Foods, Inc. are thugs
The term “thugs” is subjective. Obviously, the use of this term implies my impression that the two Tyson companies are heavy-handed, cutthroat, evil-doing, and over-bearing. Their treatment of poultry, swine and cattle producers is ample evidence this is so. Plentiful evidence of this conduct toward cattlemen has been provided during the Pickett trial. Other evidence has been developed in additional court proceedings. It is widely known that the Tyson companies have been abusive toward poultry contract growers and have helped to destroy the openly-traded market for poultry in the U.S. They are systematically doing the same to swine and beef markets now.
Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. and Tyson Foods, Inc. are thieves
The term “thieves” connotes deception, dishonesty, and one who takes money or property by stealth, as in the saying, “Take heed, have open eye, for thieves do foot by night.”
This is the way I perceive that the two Tyson companies do business against farmers, ranchers, feeders, growers, the environment, and their employees. It is well known that Tyson was convicted for bribing the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Tyson, or the company’s executives, have been embroiled in political scandals involving Pres. Clinton and his administration as well. Many years ago, Tyson Fresh Meats (then IBP) and its senior personnel were convicted of organized crime offenses in New York. During intervening years, environmental crimes, fines, employee-related wrongs, immigration offenses, and other criminal activities have been charged against one or both these companies. Convictions have often followed. I’m not aware of a company with more felony-laden records. A person with a similar legal record would be known as a “habitual criminal” under the laws of many states. My phrase “thieves” was a mild judgment.
Many facts suggest my use of “gangsters, thugs, and thieves” was a mild judgment of the Tyson companies. For example, the U.S. Department of Justice website contains this summary of one of its major accomplishments for 2003:
Prosecuting Pollution of Our Waterways. We continue to prosecute vigorously those who pollute our waterways. In United States v. Tyson Foods Inc., the company pled guilty to 20 felony Clean Water Act violations and agreed to pay a $5.5 million fine. Tyson also paid $1 million in damages to the State of Missouri in connection with a separate state civil enforcement action, and $1 million to the Missouri Natural Resources Protection Fund. The company admitted that, over a four-year period, it repeatedly discharged untreated wastewater from its Sedalia, Missouri poultry processing plant through storm drains into a tributary of the Lamine River in violation of its Clean Water Act permit. As a condition of Tyson’s three-year term of probation, the company has agreed to have an environmental assessment of its facility performed by an outside auditor and to implement an enhanced environmental management program. http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/sumlitaccomp2003.htmI understand Tyson Foods remains on probation for these 20 felonies at the present time.
October 31, 1999, the U.S. Dept of Labor issued a press release announcing the maximum legally allowable fine against Tyson for violating child labor laws contributing to the death of a young boy in Missouri. He was wrongly employed as a “chicken catcher” and killed by an unsafe exposed fan.
The companies have nearly countless violations of the law of various kinds. Those with environmental overtones are cataloged at http://www.sierraclub.org/factoryfarms/rapsheets/operators.asp.
Some have identified Tyson as one of America’s 10 least wanted companies due to Tyson’s rich history of disregard for the rule of law, dignity of people, and disregard for human principles for which our nation stands. Even federal cabinet officials have called either Tyson or its Fresh Meats subsidiary (once IBP) by names as strong as those I used, or stronger.
I am aware of widely reported statements of former Arizona governor Bruce Babbit, the former U. S. Secretary of the Interior, during the 1988 Iowa Democratic presidential caucuses, branding IBP as a “corporate outlaw.” He singled the company out as “a monument to everything shabby and backwards and wrong in the American economy — not only because the company lies and cheats, but because it believes its employees are the problem and not the solution.” These remain reported at a site that also deals with captive fed cattle supplies:
http://home.earthlink.net/~avkrebs/CARP/tiller/topstory.html. There was much speculation that Tyson Fresh Meats (then IBP) supported its largest supplier Paul Engler (Cactus Feeders) in a lawsuit against Oprah Winfrey in Texas. I opposed that suit. This heavy-handed attempt to silence a critic backfired, as did an earlier suit against another outspoken critic of IBP, attorney Robert M. Cook. IBP sued Cook for publicly accusing IBP of manipulating the cattle and futures markets in 1994. Like Oprah, Cook, after much personal hardship and expense, prevailed. It’s been said, “Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes in corporate history was made when IBP sued Robert M. Cook.” The lawsuit revealed secrets and evidence about how IBP does business leading directly to the filing of Pickett v IBP.
On August 30, 2002, the New York Times commented as follows in an editorial:
“A new report from the Sierra Club, titled ‘The Rap sheet on Animal Factories,’ draws a vivid portrait of the environmental violations caused by factory farms, many of which are owned by some of America’s largest agricultural corporations, including ConAgra, Tyson Foods, Cargill and Smithfield Farms. What brought these factory farms to the Sierra Club’s attention was a pattern of violations that resulted in criminal charges and fines, most often caused by toxic spills.”
This makes it clear that the editorial staff of one of America’s largest newspapers believed the terms “criminal” and “pattern of violations” were not too strong to use in describing Tyson Foods.
In December 2003, Jeffrey St. Clair of Indiana wrote of a part of Tyson’s operations:
Hog farming is a factory operation these days, largely controlled by two major conglomerates: Tyson Foods and Smithfield Farms. Hogs are raised in stifling feedlots of concrete, corrugated iron and wire, housing 15,000 to 20,000 animals. They are the concentration camps of American agriculture, the filthy abattoirs of our hidden system of meat production.
Pig factories are the foulest outposts in American agriculture. One hog excretes nearly three gallons of waste per day, or 2.5 times the average human’s daily total. A 6,000-sow hog factory will produce approximately 50 tons of raw manure a day. An operation the size of Premium Standard Farms in northern Missouri, with more than two million pigs and sows in 1995, will generate five times as much sewage as Kansas City, Missouri. But hog farms aren’t required to treat the waste. See:
http://eatthestate.org/08-07/NaturePolitics.htm There is more, much more than I can chronicle here. During the summer of 2003, this publication appeared in Wisconsin and elsewhere:
“Tyson has a reputation of treating farmers and consumers just as shabbily. Unfortunately, this outrageous behavior reflects poorly upon the rest of us in the business community who strive hard to create a non-exploitative economy and dignified workplace with living wages and good benefits for everyone. Tyson may be the largest and greediest meatpacker in the world, but they have picked a fight in the wrong place. An injury to one is an injury to all.”
Tyson Foods acquired the Jefferson, WI operation as part of its leveraged $3.2 billion buyout of IBP in 2001. While Tyson expects its workers to swallow humiliating concessions, the corporation’s top executive – John Tyson – got a whopping $1 million salary, plus a $3.48 million bonus last year. Tyson has been fined repeatedly for violating federal child labor laws, for discriminating against women and African-Americans in its hiring practices, and was most recently accused by the U.S. Labor Dept. of cheating its workers out of $340 million in “lost” wage hours. In this race to the bottom, Tyson also has few qualms about hiring “coyote” recruiters, forging papers, and smuggling “throwaway” immigrants into the U.S. to deal with the 75% annual turnover rate on plant disassembly lines.”
Tyson’s lobbyist was convicted of bribing former U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy as well.
“Don Tyson, senior chairman of Tyson Foods, Inc., appeared in person December 29, 1997 before U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina in Washington, D.C., to enter a guilty plea in the case involving former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy.”
See, for example,
The respected Corporate Crime Reporter identified Tyson as among America’s most lawless corporations. See:
In Arkansas’s state courts, jurors found Tyson guilty of lying. It has been reported that:
A Franklin County, Arkansas jury recently determined that Tyson Foods had lied about its intentions to Don Davis, one of its producers, and found the nation’s largest poultry producer guilty of fraud and ordered the company to pay $891,660 in compensatory damages to the Arkansas farmer.
See, AgriBusiness Examiner, Aug 11, 2000:
http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1998/09/22/espy.tyson/. The company itself, through the personal appearance of Don Tyson in Federal Court, also pled guilty to charges related to the Espy bribery. This was reported publicly in many ways including http://www.web-span.com/~pga/legal/tyson_plea.html.http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/top100.html, citing only one public corruption crime out of many, which resulted in its placement in 52nd position among the worst corporate outlaws in our nation.http://www.electricarrow.com/CARP/agbiz/agex-84.html. Surely the Tyson companies and their lawyers are aware of Jim Hightower’s new book, ‘Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And It’s Time to Take it Back’:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0670031410/qid=1075611707//ref=pd_ka_1/103-2219780-0351002?v=glance&s=books&n=507846 It climbed at least as high as #7 on the New York Times Business Best-Seller List. Mr. Hightower’s title uses one of the terms you quoted from me. The term “gangsters” has been used by others to describe Tyson as well. There are probably many examples of this. Here is but one:
You did a #1 job in bringing Mr. Smaltz’s courageous efforts to light. As the lawyer for Tyson Foods was replying to questions, I could envision the lawyer’s behaviour that were representing gangsters, such as in “The Godfather” – deny, deny and stonewall, even when they know that their client is guilty. I do, very much so, believe that Mr. Clinton will be impeached and found guilty of what is now only an allegation. I do not think that it is a giant co-incident that so many of the people that he has surrounded himself with have already been indicted for corruption. Frankly, I hope that the evidence will show corruption and impeachable offenses against Mr. Gore, as well.
You people at Frontline deserve a real pat of congratulations!
Corporate insensitivity seems to know few boundaries with the Tyson companies. In Washington, the State Government forced Tyson Fresh Meats (then IBP) to take action to prevent animal cruelty during the slaughter process. See, http://www.atg.wa.gov/releases/rel_IBP_041801.html This letter sets out only a portion of what is known about Tyson Foods, Inc. its Fresh Meats subsidiary, and their business practices. I regret that my comments to you published January 14, 2004, appeared in Montgomery, where they might have reached the Pickett jury. Frankly, this possibility did not occur to me; I wish it would have. Aside from this, I think the Tyson companies are what they are, and what their public record of behaviors indicates them to be. I cannot change the facts; I cannot alter their behavior, though I can do my part to try to uphold the public interest.
Apparently the ongoing, if insufficient, efforts of state and federal governments have not deterred corporate misconduct by the Tyson companies. I hope that public attention to these reprehensible corporate citizens will encourage them to change. I must tell you that the behavior of the Tyson companies toward me since your story appeared has caused me much personal strife. I do not hold you or your organization accountable for this as I concede that your article was accurate.
Finally, I respectfully request that you publish this letter as Richard H. Gill, attorney for Tyson, has requested. Since I cannot assure that you will do so, I will publish it on my blog.
Cc: Richard Gill Esq. (Hand Delivered Feb 2, 2004)
David A Domina
An approximate copy of the letter sent to Mike…..
COPELAND, FRANCO, SCREWS BL GILL, P. A.
RICHARD H. GILL 444 SOUTH PERRY STREET GEORGE W. WALKER, III
ROBERT D. SBOALL MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA 36104 MITCHEL H. BOLBs
JOHN A. HENIO, JR. I. DAVID MARTIN
IAMBS M. EDWARDS MAILING ADDRESS: SHANNON L. HOLLIDAY
LEE H. COPELAND P. O. BOX 347 MARTHA D. ROSY
TELEPHONE (334) 834-1180 MONTGOMERY, AL 36101-0347 FACSIMILE (334) 834-3172 C. NELSON GILL
OF COUNSEL: ALBERT W. COPELAND
HERMAN B. FRANCO (1927-1983)
EUEL A. SCREWS, JR. DEXTER C. HOBBS
January 27, 2004
c/o Joe R. Whatley, Jr., Esq.
Embassy Suites 300
Montgomery, Alabama 36104
Dear Mr. Callicrate:
This letter is being sent to you on behalf of my client Tyson Foods, Inc. and Tyson Fresh Meats (formerly IPB, inc.).
An Associated Press reporter, Kyle Wingfield, quoted you in the Wednesday, January 14, 2004 Montgomery Advertiser, and probably other publications, as making the following statement concerning IBP/Tyson:
“These guys are nothing but old-time gangsters, thugs and thieves. They beat your brains in with their market power and take your money.”
As you are plainly aware, these statements are both false and defamatory. Pursuant to Alabama law, Tyson Foods, Inc. and Tyson Fresh Meats hereby demand that you publish a full and fair retraction of such remarks. This retraction must be published in an equally public and prominent place and manner as the original publication within five (5) days of your receipt of this letter.
Richard H. Gill
https://nobull.mikecallicrate.com/category/cattlemens-legal-fund/, where I am able to assure postings, and I will transmit it to an e-mail list of recipients with whom I communicate intermittently.