Monday, February 13, 2006

Pork Plant Union: Never say Die!

The NYT has a great article on the most recent round of organizing efforts by the UFCW in Tar Heel, NC. The world's largest pork processing plant is non-union, and its working conditions are brutal, as you might expect. The UFCW held a vote for representation nine years ago. Two years ago, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the vote count should be thrown out, because Smithfield foods (among other things) had a union leader beaten up the night of the vote count.

Think about that. Can you imagine if it took seven years to process regular assault cases in criminal court? People would take to the streets, demanding justice in some other form. And that's pretty much what the union is doing, pressuring the company to remain neutral (that is, respect the rights of employees) during the organizing process. Of course, this isn't news up here in Chicago, it's common practice. But in North Carolina, (my home state) this is groundbreaking.

Full disclosure: In college I used to hang out with some punk rock kids whose families worked at the plant, and they didn't have much good to say about it.

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