Workers at the largest hog-processing plant in the world voted to unionize on Thursday, a dramatic victory after a 16-year battle by labor organizers. The final vote was 2041 workers to 1879 in favor of joining the United Food and Commercial Workers.
The Smithfield Packing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina has almost 5000 employees and processes about 32,000 hogs a day.
The local Fayetteville Observers Web site showed workers celebrating after the vote wearing T-shirts that said “YES WE CAN”.
Workers at the plant have been trying to organize since the 1990s and two previous votes were challenged alleging that employees were intimidated by management. A federal court judge ruled in May 2006, that the Smithfield Packing Company should stop using anti-union tactics and allow a vote.
After the vote, company spokesman Dennis Pittman was conciliatory: “We have had a great relationship with the unions that represent employees at eight of our other plants, and we look forward to having the same relationship with the union here at the Tar Heel facility”.
The victory is even bigger considering that North Carolina is one of the most anti-union states in the US. Negotiations on a contract are expected to begin soon since the vote was part of a court settlement.


Story Transcript

Why I support the REAL News
(a message from a supporter)

ROY SINGHAM, FOUNDER OF THOUGHTWORKS: When I was a kid, I used to believe in television. I would watch Walter Cronkite and believe what I saw. It’s been 20 years since I can watch television and say that. I need something like The Real News to get truth and nuance, complexity, analysis, and something substantive.

Worker victory in North Carolina
Producer: Carlo Basilone

CARLO BASILONE, TRNN: Workers at the largest hog-processing plant in the world voted to unionize on Thursday, a dramatic victory after a 16-year battle by labor organizers. The final vote was 2,041 to 1,879 in favor of joining the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The Smithfield Packing plant at Tar Heel, North Carolina, has almost 5,000 employees and processes about 32,000 hogs a day. In a press release from the UFCW, 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.” The local Fayetteville Observer’s Web site showed workers celebrating after the vote, wearing T-shirts that said “YES WE CAN!” Workers at the plant had been trying to organize since the 1990s, and two previous votes were challenged, alleging that employees were intimidated by management. A federal court judge ruled in May 2006 that the Smithfield Packing Company should stop using anti-union tactics and allow a vote. After the vote, company spokesman Dennis Pittman was conciliatory: “We have had a great relationship with the unions that represent employees at eight of our other plants, and we look forward to having the same relationship with the union here at the Tar Heel facility.” The victory is even bigger considering that North Carolina is one of the most anti-union states in the US.

Courtesy: limodrvr

BARBARA ZELTER, NORTH CAROLINA COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: Big, exploitive organizations like that pick the South for a reason, because of our history of enslaving people and because of our anti-union history.

BASILONE: Negotiations on a contract are expected to begin soon, since the vote was part of a court settlement.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.