Nacogdoches Pilgrim's Pride recruiting Burmese for hundreds of jobs

BEAUMONT, TX (News Release) - By Donna McCollum - email

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Pilgrim's Pride is going around the world to find employees.

"When you've depleted the local labor force you have to start trying to get creative," said John Thomasson, human resources manager.

Pilgrim's is needing employees to work a future manual poultry deboning line. Automation wastes too much meat. Management expects refugees will be more efficient.

"And we want to do this right, so we're not just going out and just gathering up a whole bunch of people," Thomasson said.

Instead, the company is working with agencies, such as the Burma connection. It's helping relocate refugees of Burma into the United States. The transition isn't easy. Thousands live in refugee camps in Thailand. From rice paddies and bamboo huts, they come to metropolitan cities, including Houston, to learn American ways.

"We're really trying to understand what makes a refugee successful and becoming integrated not only in the company, but even in the community they live in," Thomasson said.

A key component is local leadership.

"Pilgrim's could have done this without even including us," NEDCO Chairman Ed Poole said. "They could have just hired them and brought them in and so we're very appreciative they've done that."

There will be about 200 employees, but they will come with families. The Nacogdoches school district has been told to be prepared for about 300 to 400 additional children.

"It's very workable," said Ronnie Knox, assistant superintendent at NISD.

And as Pilgrim's is hiring a Burmese liason, so will the school district.

"We spoke with Dumas in West Texas that had some of the same type of people move in with them," Knox said. "They gave us some insight on how to integrate them into the school system."

A lot of logistics must be worked out before the first families arrive by the spring. Social services and temporary housing for workers coming with nothing are still being addressed.

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