by Bob Geary
The vote was close, but the third union election at the company's huge packing plant in Bladen County (30,000-plus hogs killed per day) was the charm. It caps a nearly two decades long fight by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union to organize the plant, against bitter company resistance. Last year, Smithfield sued the union, alleging it had damaged the company's reputation by sending press releases to the media and financial analysts about the treatment of workers at the plant. The next step will be bargaining for a contract. The union's statement is below.
WORKERS AT THE WORLD'S LARGEST MEATPACKING PLANT CHOOSE UNION REPRESENTATION
Tar Heel, N.C. – Workers at Smithfield Packing in Tar Heel, North Carolina, chose union representation with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). Workers voted 2041 to 1879 for a voice on the job.
"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.
The UFCW represents more than 1.3 million members in the U.S. and Canada, including 250,000 workers in the poultry and meatpacking industries.