1,276 people to lose jobs when Tyson plant in Perry closes in June

1,276 people to lose jobs when Tyson plant in Perry closes in June

The Tyson pork processing plant in Perry, Iowa. Photos by Pat Rynard/Starting Line

By Amie Rivers

March 12, 2024

1,276. That’s how many people in and around the central Iowa town of Perry will lose their jobs by the end of June, after Tyson announced Monday it would permanently close its longtime pork processing plant there.

That’s a HUGE number of workers (and the largest employer in Perry):

  • It’s more than 12% of Tyson’s entire Iowa workforce.
  • It amounts to 16% of the population of Perry.
  • It is the largest plant closure in the state in a decade.

“It was a complete shock to me,” Perry Mayor Dirk Cavanaugh told Iowa Capital Dispatch. “How the town is going to recover, I don’t know.”

Joe Henry, president of the local League of United Latin American Citizens chapter, said he would be closely watching how the state would or would not help workers find employment. He estimated more than half of plant workers are Latino.

“We can’t afford to lose these workers,” Henry said. “And Perry can’t afford to lose those people.”

Workers were unionized with United Food and Commercial Workers. A message left with their union president was not immediately returned.

The Tyson Perry plant has capacity to slaughter and process 8,000 hogs per day, or 2% of all the pork in the US. Tyson reported a loss of $395 million in operating income for the previous fiscal year, and sales of pork, in particular, were down 2.2%.

In 2018, Tyson got $674,326 in state tax credits to help upgrade their building (though no new jobs were created).

It used to be that workers could rely on 39 weeks of unemployment after a plant closure—time enough to skill up in an apprenticeship, for example. Now, those 1,276 workers can only take 26 weeks.

“Those extra weeks are crucial for a community like Perry when the largest employer leaves or closes, so residents are able to get back on their feet and also to allow the town to recover as much as it can,” said Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor.

  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.

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