09/27/23 | Motion to Dismiss Denied
U.S. District Judge Philip A. Brimmer denied defendants’ motion to dismiss, upholding claims against JBS USA Food Co., Cargill Inc., Tyson Foods Inc. and other red meat processing companies. Judge Brimmer found that the proposed class of meat processing plant workers had plausibly alleged Sherman Act violations of antitrust behavior and wage suppression. Judge Brimmer also rejected arguments from individual companies, like Smithfield Foods and Hormel, which also attempted to escape the lawsuit.

Have you worked for a major red meat processing company since January 2014? Your wages were likely lower due to a massive wage-fixing agreement between the nation’s biggest meat processing companies. Fill out the form to find out your rights »

Case Status
Active
Court
U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
Case Number
1:22-cv-02946
Defendant(S)
Agri Beef Co.
American Foods Group
Cargill
Hormel
Iowa Premium
JBS
National Beef Packing Co.
Perdue
Seaboard Foods
Smithfield
Triumph Foods
Washington Beef
File Date

Hagens Berman filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit against JBS, Tyson, Hormel, Smithfield, Perdue and many other of the nation's largest meat processing companies for what attorneys believe to be a yearslong wage-fixing agreement, causing employees to receive far less for their work than legally owed. The law firm has already secured $134.6 million in settlements for workers in the poultry processing industry and hopes to recover losses for those working in this adjacent area.

AFFECTED RED MEAT INDUSTRY EMPLOYERS

Those affected include hundreds of thousands of employees who have occupied various positions along processing lines, including slaughtering and aging, cutting and further processing, repairing processing machines, and supervising processing lines.

This class-action lawsuit pertains to many red meat processing companies, and our firm is actively seeking to hear from those who have been employed, or are currently employees, at one of the following meat processors:

  • Agri Beef Co.
  • American Foods Group
  • Cargill
  • Hormel
  • Iowa Premium
  • JBS
  • National Beef Packing Co.
  • Perdue
  • Seaboard Foods
  • Smithfield
  • Triumph Foods
  • Tyson
  • Washington Beef

WAGE-FIXING IN THE MEAT PROCESSING INDUSTRY EXPLAINED

Since 2014, many red meat processing companies conspired to fix and depress compensation paid to production and maintenance employees at meat processing plants in violation of federal law. 

Together the companies named in this lawsuit produce roughly 80% of the red meat sold in the U.S., and own and operate approximately 140 red meat processing plants in the continental United States. These processors employ hundreds of thousands of individuals who work hard to help supply the food that many Americans eat.

We believe these companies collectively suppressed wages and employment benefits based on a calculated system, stifling competition across similar places of employment and positions within the red meat processing industry, all to increase overall profits.

The lawsuit states: “Defendant Processors engaged in the conspiracy to increase their profits by reducing labor costs, which comprise a substantial share of each Defendant Processor’s total operating costs. The intended and actual effect of Defendants’ conspiracy to fix compensation has been to reduce and suppress the wages, salaries, and benefits paid to Class Members…”

METHODS OF WAGE & BENEFITS SUPPRESSION

The lawsuit highlights several specific methods that meat processing companies used to collectively suppress wages:

  • Conducting secret meetings that excluded parties not involved in the conspiracy
  • Engaging in secretive communications, avoiding written records
  • Exchanging competitively sensitive compensation data through a non-public, proprietary system
  • Using third-party companies that intentionally operate under the public’s radar – Webber, Meng, Sahl & Company Inc. and Agri Stats – to exchange sensitive compensation data
  • Instituting “give-data-to-get-data” requirements so that no company could access sensitive compensation data exchanges unless it provided data of its own
  • Concealing compensation surveys and their results to hide this information from parties not involved in the scheme

YOUR RIGHTS AS AN EMPLOYEE

Hagens Berman believes that employees at hundreds of red meat processing plants have been cheated in wages and benefits, and we intend to fight to recover their losses. When employers cooperate to stifle employee pay for the sake of their profits, workers always lose, and we’re here to challenge this illegal wage-fixing.

Under federal antitrust law, the Sherman Act, your wages as an employee are protected under law that prohibits agreements that stifle competition and lead to (in this case) lower wages within a single industry or area of work.

TOP EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS AND ANTITRUST FIRM

Hagens Berman is one of the most successful employment and antitrust litigation law firms in the U.S. and has achieved more than $320 billion in settlements for consumers in lawsuits against big banks, technology corporations, automakers and others. Hagens Berman has achieved many monumental settlements in antitrust suits, including in wage-fixing matters affecting the poultry processing industry where our pending litigation has already achieved $195 million in settlements for workers. Your claim will be handled by attorneys experienced in employment and antitrust law.

NO COST TO YOU

There is no cost or fee whatsoever involved in joining this investigation. In the event Hagens Berman or any other firm obtains a settlement that provides benefits to class members, the court will decide a reasonable fee to be awarded to the legal team. In no case will any class member ever be asked to pay any out-of-pocket sum.

CASE TIMELINE

Settlement Reached with Seaboard and Triumph

Hagens Berman has reached a $10 million settlement agreement with Seaboard Foods and a cooperation agreement with Triumph Foods in its suit alleging the companies and others conspired to depress wages in the red meat processing industry.

The settlement class will encompass all persons employed by Seaboard or its subsidiaries between Jan. 1, 2014, and the preliminary approval date of the settlement. Triumph has agreed to provide documents and information to be used as evidence in proceedings against the other defendants. Read the Motion for Preliminary Approval »

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