Fayetteville plant workers hold protest for safety 2 weeks after employees found dead on site

Monday, September 27, 2021
Fayetteville plant workers hold protest after 2 employees found dead
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The protest comes two weeks after two employees were found dead on site and a day after another employee was injured.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Workers at Valley Proteins in Fayetteville gathered Sunday to show solidarity for coworkers who died or were injured on the job.

On September 12, two employees--Kevin Hoeft and Brad Zipp--were found dead inside the plant. Nearly two weeks later, on September 25, another worker was injured on the job.

Saturday evening, a crane carrying thousands of pounds of feathers slammed into the roof of a truck.

"Luckily enough, the driver saw the yard jockey vehicle, saw the boom coming toward his vehicle and laid down into the floor," said Chris Hollis, a former employee at Valley Proteins who was leading Sunday's rally to support workers and their families. "Besides God's grace, that's the only thing that saved him."

The Valley Protein Blue Collar Workers Organizing Committee, part of UE Local 150, organized the remembrance and "worker speak-out for safety", demanding accountability and answers from the company. Workers like Hollis said they wanted to be seen and treated as human beings by the company.

After Hoeft and Zipp died, Valley Proteins issued a statement calling it an accident and saying the workers did not follow training and safety procedures.

Tina Elsen Peter, Hoeft's fiance, said the company's statement wasn't good enough.

"I just want some answers," Peter said. "It really broke my heart. It was tragic news to me. I just want to know what's going on and what happened."

The state labor department is investigating the deaths.

"It's just unbelievable that such a large plant--that they would continue to let things like this happen," Peter said. "It just devastates me."

Valley Proteins has not returned ABC11's request for comment about the incident on September 25.

The injured worker's condition is currently unknown.

The ABC11 I-Team learned that--not including Saturday's incident--there have been three documented accidents at the plant in the last decade and a series of fines for various safety violations, including quality control and equipment issues.

"I've seen a lot of deaths and a lot of accidents," said veteran employee Terry Green.

ABC11 reached out to Valley Proteins for comment about workers' concerns. The request for comment has not been returned as of Sunday evening.