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Long Denied, Justice Comes to Smithfield!

Jeremy Sprinkle
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(Picture) Justice supporters march on Smithfield share holders meeting in VirginiaSupporters 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.