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FACT FOCUS: Tyson Foods isn't hiring workers who came to the U.S. illegally. Boycott calls persist

Conservative influencers and politicians are calling for a boycott of Tyson Foods after false claims spread online saying the multinational meat producer is planning to hire 52,000 people who came to the U.S. illegally.

“Tyson is closing its facility in Perry, Iowa and laying off its 1,200 workers,” reads one X post that had received approximately 20,000 likes and 11,700 shares as of Friday. “Instead, they plan to hire thousands of new illegals in states like New York. #BoycottTyson. Pass it on.”

But the company, the latest in a growing list of businesses targeted with calls for a boycott amid claims of “woke” policies, has no such plans.

Here’s a closer look at the facts.

CLAIM: Tyson Foods is hiring 52,000 people who entered the U.S. illegally.

THE FACTS: The company has no current plans to hire 52,000 workers in the U.S., a spokesperson for the company said. In addition, all of its workers are required to have legal authorization for employment in the country.

“That is categorically false,” Tyson said of the claims spreading online.

Tyson told The Associated Press that it has between 5-8% of roles open in its 500 U.S. locations at any given time, “all of which are available to anyone who is qualified and legally authorized to work in the United States.”

“Tyson Foods is strongly opposed to illegal immigration,” it wrote in a statement.

The company’s U.S. workforce comprises approximately 120,000 employees, according to Tyson. This means that it currently has roughly between 6,000 to 9,600 open positions.

In 2022, Tyson committed to hiring 2,500 refugees in the U.S. over three years as a member of the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a network of more than 400 major multinational companies. Refugees — people who face persecution and were granted entry to the U.S. while living outside the country — are legally authorized to work as soon as they arrive in the U.S.

People granted asylum in the U.S. also face persecution, but applied for protection after they entered the country. Those whose applications are pending typically qualify for work authorization under an Employment Authorization Document, or EAD, 180 days after they file their asylum application. Anyone already granted asylum can legally work without an EAD.

Both refugees and individuals granted asylum have legal status in the U.S. Tyson said that approximately 42,000 of its current U.S. employees are noncitizens with work authorization. Haiwen Langworth, a spokesperson for the Tent Partnership for Refugees, told the AP that Tyson’s 2022 commitment includes people with legal refugee status, as well as others such as asylum seekers or grantees with permission to work.

The false claims appear to stem from a Bloomberg article published March 11 about Tyson’s Tent Partnership for Refugees commitment. Garrett Dolan, associate director of human resources at Tyson, said in the article that the company plans to hire 52,000 people for factory jobs in 2024. According to Tyson, Dolan “misspoke.”

Bloomberg told the AP that it stands by its reporting.

Scripps News published its own article two days later, which reported that Tyson “wants to hire 52,000 asylum seekers for factory jobs.” The outlet has since retracted the story for “serious factual inaccuracies,” writing that it was “unable to verify that number.” But false claims around the figure spread widely on social media.

The reports sparked calls to boycott Tyson, hardly the first company to face opposition to what are often described as “woke” policies. Bud Light sales plunged last year amid conservative backlash over the beer giant’s partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Target made changes to its LGBTQ+ merchandise ahead of last year’s Pride month after customers confronted workers and tipped over displays.

Rebekah Wolf, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, told the AP that U.S. companies relying on immigrant labor is “nothing new,” especially when it comes to industries such as meat processing with roles considered undesirable by many U.S. citizens.

Wolf said that hiring people willing to take jobs that are not particularly attractive to others is crucial to the economy.

She added that the U.S. has “really robust policies for ensuring that big companies like Tyson are employing people who are authorized to work in the United States.” She also pointed out that many employers have recently struggled to fill jobs given labor shortages.

Tyson announced March 11 that it is closing a pork processing facility in Perry, Iowa, the town’s largest employer. The company did not provide specifics, saying the closure was related to “specific business reasons” and that the decision “is not related to our hiring efforts at other facilities.” The announcement came after the company closed a plant in both Virginia and Arkansas in 2023 and consolidated its corporate operations the year prior.

Although Tyson declined to comment when asked how many of the Perry plant workers are non-citizens, it said in a statement that “any insinuation that we would cut American jobs to hire immigrant workers is completely false.”

The company also noted that it has encouraged the Perry employees to apply for other positions at Tyson.

Some social media alleged that following the Perry closure, Tyson will be hiring in New York, where there has been a massive influx of migrants. However, Tyson said that it “does not operate in New York nor does it have any plans to do so.”

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This is part of the AP’s effort to address widely shared false and misleading information that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.