December 12, 2008
Long Denied, Justice Comes to Smithfield!
Supporters of justice marched on company share holders meeting in 2007.
Workers vote to join UFCW
After 16 long years, workers at the world’s largest meat processing plant will finally get their union.
Last night, the company announced the results of an NLRB supervised election—2,041 ’Yes’ votes for UFCW to 1,879 ‘No’ votes.
Organizing at the Bladen County plant began almost as soon as it opened in 1992. After two failed election attempts in 1994 and 1997, in which the company was found to have repeatedly broken the law, the union launched the Justice @ Smithfield campaign to raise public awareness about abuses at the plant.
Victory came after the company and union settled a lawsuit earlier this year which paved the way for a fair election process. The Tar Heel, NC plant now joins the majority of Smithfield operations where a union is already recognized.
From the UFCW press release:
“When workers have a fair process, they choose a voice on the job,” said UFCW Director of Organizing Pat O’Neill. “This is a great victory for the Tar Heel workers. I know they are looking forward to sitting down at the bargaining table with Smithfield to negotiate a contract. The UFCW has constructive union contracts with Smithfield plants around the country. Those union contracts benefit workers, the company and the community. We believe the workers here in Tar Heel can achieve a similar agreement.”
Ronnie Ann Simmons, a veteran of 13 years at the plant said, “We are thrilled. This moment has been a long time coming. We stuck together, and now we have a say on the job.”
Workers at 26 Smithfield-owned facilities around the country already have UFCW representation.
Company spokesman Dennis Pittman, who announced the results, told the News & Observer the election was conducted fairly, adding, “We respect the employees’ decision and look forward to working together.”
Workers have voted to have a voice on the job, and we hope the company will stand by its commitment to respect what they have to say and negotiate in good faith with the union on a first-contract.
The NC State AFL-CIO has for many years now stood in solidarity with the workers at Smithfield Packing, and we will continue to do so.
Congratulations to the new union members at Smithfield Packing in Tar Heel, NC. Your courage and determination to form your union is an inspiration to the entire labor movement. Congratulations also to the UFCW, which never gave up on what has been a very long campaign.
The forming of this Union is disappointing. I only have a little free cash that I have worked hard to save and looking at the markets I have been considering investing some. With the current lower prices I see an opportunity. Smithfield Foods was one company that I was considering, because it was local and something that I could understand the basics of. However, after reading that there is a strong union presence, as an investor, I have decided that I will have to look at other investments. History has shown that unions are bad for the long term health of a company.
In the past I have worked as part of a union and will not do it again. If I need something changed where I work now, I speak up and get it changed or learn the reason for the current way of doing things. There is no reason for a union!!! All they do is take money from my pay check to pay union leaders who do not add anything to good of the company and personally I would rather have a strong company who I know will be here tomorrow.
You need not be disappointed that a majority of workers at Smithfield Packing decided to form a union. In fact, unless you work there, it really isn’t your concern. Had the vote gone the other way, the status quo would remain in place – employment at will, dangerous working conditions, random and arbitrary discipline, threats and abuse. With the union certified, workers at Smithfield will have a voice on the job to address those issues from a position of strength, not weakness. I can’t see how that affects you in the least.
Furthermore, if you seriously considered yourself a potential investor in Smithfield, you would know that workers at most of Smithfield’s meat packing plants across the United States have already chosen union representation. The Tar Heel plant was an outlier.
This just brought the unions to my attention and if Smithfield needs a union, then it is not a company that I want to own or work for
Best wishes to you!