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Union, Smithfield Agree to Contract at Tarheel Plant

Jeremy Sprinkle
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(Picture) Justice at Smithfield march in 2007Employees will (finally) have a voice at work

Nearly 17 years since the world's largest hog processing plant opened its doors, the 5,000 workers at Smithfield Foods in Tarheel, NC, who voted to form a union late last year, have now approved a collective bargaining agreement with the company.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports the new four-year contract passed with 84 percent support. Key provisions of the contract include a pay raise, sick leave, holiday pay, a seniority system, controlled health care costs, and a grievance procedure and safety committee to give workers a say in their working conditions.

"We really did accomplish something with this union," said Mattie Fulcher, a 10-year employee who helps usher pigs to their deaths. "We might not have gotten the raise that we wanted, but that will come in time. This is our first contract, and it is a start."

Most of Smithfield's other processing plants were already represented by the UFCW. On the contract settlement in Tarheel, company spokesman Dennis Pittman told the N&O, "We feel that the bargaining committee and the company have reached a fair and equitable agreement."

Congratulations to the employees at Smithfield Foods in Tarheel, NC on your first union contract!