NAACP looks into Pilgrim's Pride after Sumter workers' strike

Sumter branch will investigate culture for workers as a whole

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 2/21/18

The Sumter County branch of the NAACP announced it launched an investigation into allegations a manager at Pilgrim's Pride Corp. in Sumter made derogatory statements describing black employees last week.

Employees went on strike on Feb. 15 when …

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NAACP looks into Pilgrim's Pride after Sumter workers' strike

Sumter branch will investigate culture for workers as a whole

Posted

The Sumter County branch of the NAACP announced it launched an investigation into allegations a manager at Pilgrim's Pride Corp. in Sumter made derogatory statements describing black employees last week.

Employees went on strike on Feb. 15 when word spread among workers at the plant on U.S. 15 South that the plant manager had spoken over the radio that "there are too many roaches walking in the hallway."

"Subsequent statements by current employees regarding a culture and climate for employees in general are equally troubling to us," said Elizabeth Kilgore, president of the Sumter branch of the national civil rights organization, in the announcement.

Kilgore wrote the organization will work to determine "how widespread this sentiment may be among managers at Pilgrim's Pride and how we may demonstrate support for the hardworking employees as they advocate for positive change within the facility."

When The Sumter Item was on scene at a protest held by striking employees last week, several spoke about the topic, including mentioning this was not the first time that manager had made similar comments.

"It's not just him," said Demetrius Stewart, an employee, at the time. "He was just the icing on the cake."

Other complaints included not having sufficient time for break and to take care of personal issues outside of work such as taking care of sick children.

Stewart said at the time she wants to do a good job at work but that it is hard when supervisors make degrading comments.

"I'm still going to work because I have to eat, but something needs to be done," she said. "Without us, they can't get that place running."

She did tell The Sumter Item at the time that her shift schedule works well for her family because she can take her children to school and someone else can watch them for only part of the night instead of all night while she is at work.

It is not known how many employees walked out or did not show up on Thursday or how many have returned to work and when. About 50 were protesting outside when The Sumter Item was on scene.

The plant has more than 2,000 full-time positions.

A voicemail that was directed to a woman's inbox at the Sumter plant was not returned.