Will Sanderson really provide 1000 jobs for Cumberland county residents?

Will the jobs at the proposed Sanderson Farms processing plant be staffed primarily by Cumberland County residents or not? We have four examples that we feel may help you to see why we are concerned about this. They are:


Smithfield Foods in Tarheel

House of Raeford in Raeford

Sanderson Farms in Waco Tx.

Sanderson Farms in Bryan Tx.


We feel that the precedent  set in these other plants should be a cause for concern to Cumberland county officials and citizens. We ask that you please review the information below to see if you agree. We have provided footnotes with all source material.


Example 1       Why Sanderson will "burn up" local employees and then import workers from out of the county


Smithfield Packing - 5000 employees

Tarheel  NC

The New York Times wrote an article discussing the problems Smithfield had after an immigration crackdown in 2007. In that article they discussed the issues Sanderson had getting workers:

“Making Smithfield’s recruiting challenge even harder is the fact that many local residents have worked there before and soured on the experience. As a result, Smithfield often looks far afield for new employees.”  [emphasis added] (Source: New York Times)


The same article goes on to say give another reason why Smithfield was having a hard time finding workers willing to work there:

““Thousands and thousands of workers from North Carolina have come through the plant, and they left, saying, ‘No way,’ because they were injured or didn’t want to work in such an oppressive atmosphere,” Mr. Bruskin said. “This plant burned up a large number of people, and the word got around about their bad experiences.” [emphasis added]

According to a spokesman for Smithfield: “Employee turnover has long been a problem at Smithfield and other meat-processing plants, but the problem has grown worse recently. Dennis Pittman, a Smithfield spokesman, said 60 percent of the new workers quit within 90 days of being hired, compared with 25 percent to 30 percent two years ago when many new employees were illegal immigrants.”


“I’ve heard officials from a couple of other meat processors say they’ve never seen such high turnover with new workers,” Mr. Pittman said.

While this is from an older article, the principal of churning through workers remains the same and Smithfield continues to transport workers from other counties to work in Tarheel today.  
We feel that eventually the same thing would happen here in Cumberland County. The high turnover rate of that industry will churn through local workers and then we will still be stuck with the plant, the chicken trucks, the water issues and the property value loss, but local businesses will not be getting any benefit from the payroll of majority of the workers.


How has Smithfield Packing helped the Town of Tarheel at all? The workers come in from out of town,(some even from SC) and then go home to spend their paychecks. The workers do not seem to be helping the economy of the town in any appreciable way. With over 5000 workers working at Smithfield, Tarheel has a population of 145 (Source) and very few businesses. Bladen county is dealing with an unemployment rate of 9.9% as of June 2014 (Source BLS.gov)

In addition when we started researching the Sanderson project we found that Smithfield was advertising 30 job openings for unskilled labor with a starting salary of $10 per hour  and the plant pays an average hourly wage of $13.20 per hour,(Source) which is a considerably higher rate than Sanderson will offer.


These jobs were posted online on August 4th (Source Smithfield Careers) and as of September 21st they still have not been filled. Since Smithfield is only 25 min. from Fayetteville and with transportation available at a very reasonable rates it raises the question as to how many workers in Fayetteville are really interested in working in a slaughterhouse.




Example 2      Out of 950 workers only 200 lived in Hoke County

The House of Raeford Turkey Plant
Raeford NC


In July of 2013 the House of Raeford Turkey plant shut down.  The plant employed 950 workers, almost the same amount as the prospective Sanderson plant.  However, according to Rick Sandy , the president of the Raeford Hoke Chamber of Commerce “slightly more than 200 of the plants workers live in Hoke County”.

He went on to say


"It's going to be a severe impact to a small community, losing employment of 200-odd residents of the community," he said. "The only saving grace in this deal is, from what I'm told, the majority of employees are not actually residents of the county.”  [emphasis added] (Source Fayetteville Observer)

This is in harmony with what NC Policy Watch had to say:

“Company officials estimate half of the turkey slaughterhouse’s employees come from Hoke and Cumberland counties, while the rest drive in from Scotland, Richmond and Robeson counties or from neighboring South Carolina.”

Should we not be concerned about the same thing happening here in Cumberland County?



Example 3 Sanderson Farms in Waco - transporting workers from other counties to work.

Sanderson Farms
Waco, Texas


At the Sanderson facility in Waco, Sanderson uses what is known as a Workforce Investment Board (WIB), called JobLinks. It is a partnership between The City of Waco Transit and local companies such as hospitals, business and a community college.

According to JobLinks Employee Transportation:

“One of the largest sustaining partners has been Sanderson Farms. The company initially provided a small level of funding for the service based on it merits and its value to the region. The turning point for Sanderson’s involvement in the project came one it saw that 50-55% of all passengers were using the new service to access employment at Sanderson Farms. Plus, as the company became more aware of the connection between employees’ having reliable, affordable transportation to work and their retention on the job, it was more willing to increase its level of funding in the shuttle project”  Source: Joblinks

While it is certainly admirable that Sanderson is supporting this valuable service there are a couple of things to consider. First of all the routes this service runs they is far outside of the Waco area. The routes they run for Sanderson go all the way to Marlin Tx in Falls County to Waco in McLennan County. Marlin is 30 miles away from Waco and in a different county altogether.

To give that local perspective in our area Sanderson could be sourcing employees from Dunn in Harnett county, Lumberton in Robeson County, Clinton in Sampson county or Raeford in Hoke county.
In addition it should be mentioned that while Sanderson is contributing to this service part of the expense still falls on Waco Transit.

In addition they started a night service for workers. Julie Talbert from the Workforce Development Board brought out that they now offer late night service to get workers home from Sanderson’s second shift at 12:30 at night. As far as the cost of this service she said “since our transit provider only operates during the the day, this is really quite expensive. The cost for the service increases a lot when you have to look into providing supervision and maintenance, dispatch, that type of thing during the midnight hour.” [emphasis added]

Why did Joblinks and Sanderson Farms feel the need to go to all this extra expense in providing midnight bus service to other counties and towns up to 30 miles from Sanderson Farms plant?

According to Julie Talbert:

“the selling point to do so was the amount of money it would save by reducing the turnover rate (a high of 350%) for second shift workers” [emphasis added] She also went on to say: “I think the other piece that got Sanderson Farms to go up on their contribution was some information that I provided to them that came probably from the Society for Human Resource Management about what they are paying every time someone leaves, which is every day there” [emphasis added] (Source: JobLinks Presentation)


We feel this information, from an agency which is clearly pro -Sanderson, speaks volumes about the issues related with turnover that plague the slaughterhouse/processing industry, and Sanderson in particular. On September 2nd, Pic Billingsley quoted a turnover rate of 40% for the Kinston plant. In light of the amount of turnover they are experiencing 2nd shift in Waco it does seem that his estimate is very optimistic.


Example 4  Sanderson Farms advertising to bring in outside workers to Brazos county Texas.


Sanderson Farms
Bryan Texas Facility

Sanderson Farms in Bryan Texas was also having problems staffing it’s facility with local workers from Bryan in Brazos county. According to the Madisonville Metor:

Sanderson Farms, which has a facility in Bryan, recently held a job fair in Madisonville to attract new employees to its company, which expects its new recruits to start next week. As a result, Sanderson Farms entered into an agreement with Brazos Transit (Brazos County)  to offer shuttle service for its Madison County employees, as well as Robertson County. [emphasis added]  (Source)


Madisonville is 36 miles away from Bryan Texas, that would be like Sanderson holding a job fair in Lumberton or Clinton to draw workers from those towns to come and take jobs in Cumberland county. Again, Sanderson was able to get an agreement for Brazos (Bryan) transit to drive to other counties to bring workers to their plant. Are the city of Fayetteville and Cumberland county going to offer Sanderson tax incentives and then turn around and also subsidize the transportation of their employees with taxpayer funds?



While our primary concerns are environmental, we know the jobs are an issue as well. Since it is often stated that Sanderson will be providing 1000 jobs to Cumberland county residents we do think it is important to not overlook that this is likely not the case.

We simply can not predict with 100% accuracy what percentage of workers will be Cumberland county residents. However, based on the examples of other local slaughterhouses, as well as Sanderson Farms sites from plants that have been open for several years in Texas, we feel that there is a high likelihood that in time most of  the workers will not be residents of Cumberland County.





 UPDATE: Sanderson has agreed to hiring 60% of its workers from Cumberland County and tying this to incentives. This is a step in the right direction. It is not clear yet how this will be monitored and we would ask the commissioners that if they do offer incentives based on this that they stipulate that it can be monitored effectively and not self reported.