Monday, December 04, 2006

Starkly different responses to the urged boycott of Smithfield Pork

If you read this site with any regularity, you know we've been following closely the plight of the Smithfield Foods slaughter workers, who have some of the most dire working conditions (and some of the most reactionary management types). So I was reading this article on the situation from the Raleigh News & Observer, and I came across this bit:

Harris Teeter shopper Bob Silver, a business professor at a local community college, said Saturday's protest may be counterproductive.

First, Silver said, the demonstrators' signs urged solidarity with Smithfield workers but didn't specifically call for a boycott of their products. He had to ask to figure out what the demonstrators wanted him to do.

Second, he said, exploitation of workers is a global issue that needs a comprehensive solution to keep corporations from simply moving to less-regulated states or overseas to avoid costly upgrades.

"They're probably just going to drive them [Smithfield] out of the state," Silver said of the union.

But Sonnya Quinn of Raleigh was happy to see the demonstration.

"It certainly is refreshing to me to see people upset about something," said Quinn, a retired journalist who called herself an old liberal. "There's so many injustices in this country that people are just too busy to think about, I guess."

Now that first guy just strikes me as a tool, and I'm not surprised he's a business professor from Wake Tech or whatever. The response that if you can't improve conditions in Belize, then it's pointless to try and improve things here is philosophically self-serving and lazy. It's hard to change things, and besides if you do, other things may happen that are also bad is a good reason to never get out of bed and do anything.

The second woman seems kind of oblivious, but in a friendly and supportive way, so God Bless her, I guess. It's really not that hard to find people who are outraged about the way things are, if you do a bit of searching, like say, anywhere.


And then there's this article in the Wilmington press which actually interviewed the people involved to get their take on it, and we come away with the following perspective from the clergy supporting the workers:
The Rev. Hudson Barksdale, pastor of Gregory United Church of Christ in Wilmington, signed the coalition's original letter of protest to Harris Teeter.

"This is not, 'Don't shop at Harris Teeter.' This is not 'Don't buy Smithfield products,'" he said. "We say don't buy products from the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel."

He said it was especially important for pastors to protest because "Christ was about justice, and if we sit idly by when our brothers and sisters are suffering . . . then we are not Christians."
It's good to see clergy getting in the act. They've been an enormous boon of support to the workers and are probably the only reason the union is even still in the running in Tar Heel.


zeul said...

Smithfield is one of the candidates in the Jobs with Justice "Grinch of the Year" contest to determine the national figure who has done the most harm to working families this year. You can cast your vote at Please spread the word!

whiskey said...

I voted for them already. It was good fun.

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