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World’s biggest hog boss meets its match: Smithfield workers take on global Goliath

by PWW (reposted)
Jim Adams started at Smithfield Packing on the hog kill floor assembly line. He was hurt on his first day, and by the time his second shift ended he knew he’d better keep his mouth shut and try to ignore the pain if he wanted to keep his job.
During his first few months he kept getting hurt, until after eight months he tore the cartilage in his right knee, slipped and fell on a blade and slashed his arm and hand through the tendons.

The emergency room doctors and his personal physician said the injury was due to his job, but Smithfield denied him worker’s compensation. He had to take unpaid leave to have two surgeries. His leave time ran out before a third scheduled operation and the company fired him.

“This hand is useless,” he said while describing his predicament during a phone conversation with him in January. “I am the only breadwinner for my family — three boys, a wife — and I owe $40,000 in medical bills. I can’t afford the third operation.”

Injury a byproduct from 8 million hogs a year

The Jim Adams story is common at the world’s largest hog slaughterhouse and pork processing plant — Smithfield Packing in Tar Heel, N.C.

More than 5,000 workers there kill and process 8 million hogs every year. Working conditions are notoriously tough at hog slaughterhouses, but at Smithfield’s Tar Heel plant the assembly line speeds are so fast that they make working conditions brutal and lead to disabling injuries.

There is a history of abuse at the Tar Heel plant. Human Rights Watch, a respected international organization, has cited Smithfield Packing for violating international human rights standards and for retaliating against those who report their injuries. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Smithfield violated labor law by using threats, intimidation and violence against workers who tried to organize a union.

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Sun, Mar 4, 2007 4:36AM
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