Friday, December 12, 2008

Workers unionize largest pork plant, in rural N.C.

Workers at the world's largest hog slaughter plant, in rural Tar Heel, N.C., have voted narrowly to be represented by a union. The bid of the United Food and Commercial Workers got 52 percent of the vote at the plant of Smithfield Foods, 2,041 to 1,879.

"A union victory is considered a coup in North Carolina, which has the lowest rate of unionization in the nation," Kristin Collins writes for The News & Observer of Raleigh. "It is part of a larger struggle to organize meat-packing plants that have moved to the Southeast in the past few decades hoping to escape the reach of unions." Most states in the region have "right-to-work" laws, which forbid contracts that require all covered employees to pay union dues.

The UFCW had tried to organize workers at the plant since it opened in 1992, Collins notes. "The results of two previous elections at the plant in the 1990s were thrown out after federal officials declared that the company had harassed and fired union supporters, even forcing an employee to stamp the words “Vote No” on dead hogs. In 2006, the union began an intense public campaign that included a national boycott and frequent protests outside grocery stores and at company shareholder meetings. The union also brought more than a dozen charges of unfair labor practices against the company. The union says it is fighting to protect Smithfield workers from dangerous and demoralizing working conditions." (Read more)

1 comment:

Al Cross said...

UPDATE, July 2: Workers at the plant ratified a four-year contract, MeatingPlace reports: