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Smithfield Packing Guilty of Threatening, Physically Assaulting Workers
by UFCW
Thursday Apr 14th, 2005 12:38 AM
UFCW: Smithfield Packing Guilty of Threatening, Physically Assaulting Workers - Again; Company Police Force Instigate Plant Riot in Assault on Workers; NLRB Orders Reinstatement of Workers, Payment of Lost Wages
4/13/2005 5:22:00 PM

To: National and Metro desks, Labor Reporter

Contact: Greg Denier of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, 202-466-1591

TAR HEEL, N.C., April 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a ruling yesterday finding Smithfield Packing, Inc. in Tar Heel, N.C., and its cleaning contractor, QSI, Inc. guilty of violating workers' rights by threatening, harassing, physically assaulting, falsely arresting, and causing arrests.

"Workers at the company's Tar Heel hog kill and processing plant have been subjected to harassment and mistreatment at the hands of Bladen County Deputy Sheriffs on behalf of the company and now Smithfield company cops since workers began seeking a voice on the job through union representation in 1994," said UFCW Executive Vice President and Organizing Director Bill McDonough

"This is a company with a history of violence against workers in North Carolina," said McDonough. "The American people are becoming more aware every day of what this company does to workers at its Tar Heel, N.C., facility -- and will hold Smithfield accountable. These recent events demonstrate, once again, that the company management at Tar Heel will stoop to any level to abuse workers at the plant."

The UFCW filed charges on behalf of the workers after the company's cleaning contractor began running a scheme in which workers hired on the sanitation crew were promised six-month and one-year raises. Once workers got close, or shortly after, they earned a raise, QSI sanitation supervisors fired them for minor infractions -- then later rehired them at their original starting pay of $6 an hour. When workers discovered that a sympathetic supervisor who had been voicing workers' concerns to management and who had also refused to fire a worker for a minor violation had been fired, they walked out of the plant. QSI promised a dollar raise, among other things, to coax the employees back to work. Approximately a week after workers returned to work, QSI, with the assistance of Smithfield's police force, attempted to fire the supervisors and workers who were part of the original walkout. When workers attempted to walk out again in support of those being fired, the company police attempted to bar them from leaving, causing a riot-like situation.

The NLRB judge ordered Smithfield and QSI to immediately stop their illegal actions and reinstate 14 workers who had been unlawfully discharged. The order also mandates the payment of lost wages, benefits, and any loss of earnings and benefits the discharged workers may have suffered, plus interest.

Smithfield's anti-worker actions in Tar Heel have generated negative attention from Human Rights Watch, an internationally renowned human rights organization. Human Rights Watch has issued two special reports citing Smithfield's record as a perpetrator of workers and human rights' violations: Unfair Advantage: Workers' Freedom of Association in the United States Under International Human Rights Standards (August 2000) and Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Workers' Rights in the U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants (January 2005).

Recently, the NLRB reaffirmed the judge's order citing the company's illegal actions in a 1997 worker organizing effort, including:

-- Smithfield managers conspired with the local Sheriff Department to physically intimidate and assault union supporters.

-- Sheriff deputies -- in riot gear and heavily armed -- stationed themselves at the entrance to the plant on days that civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson and other religious leaders handed out literature with workers.

-- The company planned and instigated a "riot" following the vote count in 1997 that led to false arrests of a union supporter.

-- Smithfield held forced meetings to intimidate and threaten workers for supporting the union.

-- Smithfield paid workers above their normal rate to spy on co-workers and turn in union supporters to management consultants.

-- Smithfield forced a management employee to produce false statements to the Board in an attempt to cover-up anti-union activity.

-- Smithfield threatened to close the plant if the workers chose a union.

-- The Board found Smithfield guilty of illegally firing workers.

The NLRB also overturned the results from the 1997 union election at Smithfield and ordered a new election. The format and location of any future election will be determined by the Board's Regional Director. The 10 illegally fired workers have also been granted reinstatement and back-wages as compensation for their unfair discharges.

The UFCW co-sponsors a worker center in Red Springs, N.C., that serves workers from the Tar Heel plant and surrounding areas with assistance on health and safety issues, immigration, English-as-a-Second Language, workers compensation and social service referrals. For more information on Smithfield go to http://www.ufcw.org/issues_and_actions

The UFCW represents 1.4 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries. UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries.

For more information contact Greg Denier 202-466-1591

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/© 2005 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/