Tyson Foods Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Hormel Foods Corp., and other top poultry processors must face antitrust claims over an alleged industrywide plot to drive down the wages of their largely immigrant workforce, a federal judge in Maryland ruled Thursday.
Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher, who tentatively tossed the case last year, said this time around that the plaintiffs—chicken plant employees paid by the hour—can lead a lawsuit on behalf of all poultry workers, including turkey plant employees and those on salary. They all allegedly felt the scheme’s impact similarly, the judge said.
The suit “sufficiently pled the existence of a singular poultry labor market” affected “by the same exact anti-competitive conduct,” Gallagher wrote. That suggests the “plaintiffs have a sufficient personal stake” in the case, even with respect to “class members from slightly different backgrounds,” she said.
The ruling clears the way for the proposed class action to move forward in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland with claims that the poultry processors colluded to depress pay through illegal data exchanges and annual secret meetings at a Florida hotel.
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Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP are interim co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, who are also represented by Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP, Keller Rohrback LLP, Berger Montague PC, Kramon & Graham PA, Hardin & Hughes LLP, Butler Farm & Ranch Law Group PLLC, Robins Kaplan LLP, the Dampier Law Firm PC, and Shapiro Sher Guinot & Sandler.
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