KELSO, WASH. – Foster Farms announced on Aug. 9 that it increased its entry-level wage to $19 per hour at its Kelso, Wash., poultry processing plant.

The Livingston, Calif.-based poultry company added that employees also qualify for a comprehensive health care plan and for disability and life insurance coverage.

“We want to hire and retain the best talent,” said Jason Gentemann, Foster Farms’ Kelso complex manager. “That means ensuring that wages and benefits are competitive in our industry and our community, particularly at a time when we are all being impacted by a challenging economy.”

Foster Farms said the Kelso facility employs 720 workers and is currently hiring to fill around 300 open positions in different shifts. 

Foster Farms also proposed improving other worker benefits related to vacation and holidays, but the United Food and Commercial Workers declined to re-open the existing collective bargaining agreement to discuss those proposals.

In June, the company was purchased by private equity firm Atlas Holdings and named Donnie Smith as chairman of the board and chief executive officer.

During July, Foster Farms raised the entry level wages to $20 per hour at its Livingston complex.