Settlements offered in worker-wage conspiracy case

Three poultry companies that were once separate entities but are now affiliated have offered settlements in a class-action lawsuit in which the companies were accused of conspiring to keep worker wages down.

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(weyo | BigStockPhoto.com)
(weyo | BigStockPhoto.com)

Three poultry companies that were once separate entities but are now affiliated have offered settlements in a class-action lawsuit in which the companies were accused of conspiring to keep worker wages down.

According to a report from Reuters, Sanderson Farms, Wayne Farms and Cargill Meat Solutions have all offered settlements in the case, that accused those companies, as well as others, of collusion.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, Wayne Farms, Sanderson Farms and Cargill were separate companies, but Wayne Farms and Sanderson Farms merged to form Wayne-Sanderson Farms on July 22. That merger was done through a joint venture between Continental Grain Company and Cargill, making Cargill a part-owner of Wayne Sanderson Farms.

Sanderson Farms offered to pay a settlement of $38.3 million, while Wayne Farms agreed to pay $31.5 million and Cargill agreed to pay $15 million.

However, none of the plaintiff companies admitted any wrongdoing. Cargill, in a statement issued to Reuters, said it was “pleased to put the cost and distraction of litigation behind us."

Attorneys for the plaintiffs asked U.S. District Judge Stephanie Gallagher to grant preliminary approval for the settlement. The case is being heard in the United States District Court, District of Maryland.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a separate but similar suit against the three companies in July, one day before the three companies became affiliated. The DOJ filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Cargill, Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms, alleginged the three companies took part in a long-running conspiracy to exchange information about wages and benefits for poultry processing plant workers and engaging in deceptive practices regarding the payment of contract farmers.

In a separate but similar class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Oklahoma, Koch Foods, Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms offered to settle the claims made against them.

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