Coalition of Immokalee Workers Launch Modern-Day Slavery Museum and Gear up for Farmworker Freedom March
“If We Can Change the White House, We Can Change the Hog House” The Saga of the Smithfield Workers in Tar Heel, NC
In December 2008 the United Food and Commercial Workers Union won one of the largest union elections in decades at the Smithfield Foods pig slaughter plant in Tar Heel, NC. The massive 5000-worker plant is the largest in the world, killing 32,000 pigs a day and more than 8 million a year.
In 1994 and 1997 workers at the plant tried to win union representation, but in both cases Smithfield was found by the National Labor Relations Board to have cheated the workers out of a fair election.
In 2006, after years of fruitless litigation, the UFCW launched the national Justice@Smithfield Campaign Under the slogan “Packaged with Abuse” workers took the stories of widespread health and safety abuse and disrespect in the plant to communities across the country. Meanwhile, inside the plant Smithfield workers continued to stand up for their rights, and their courage inspired a national movement of supporters and gained widespread media coverage. In October 2007 Smithfield sued the UFCW for extortion under the notorious RICO Act, a law designed to pursue the Mafia. In October 2008, hours before the RICO case was to go to trial, Smithfield dropped the charges and agreed to a set of rules that could allow for a fair election. The Tar Heel workers won the election on December 11th and joy broke out for miles around. In July 2009 Smithfield workers ratified their first contract and formed their own Local Union organization.
This poem tells the story from the inside of the campaign.
Gene was the Director of the Justice@Smithfield Campaign for the
UFCW from 2006 through 2008. He has 30 years of experience
in the labor movement as a rank and file union leader, organizer
There was a plant
Where they said
So don't rave and rant
No matter how you feel
It's no big deal
Cause we're Smithfield
And we own Tar Heel
When the plant was new
CEO Luter and crew
Said The hell with you
Pigs are our deal
From the squeal to the meal
When the plant was complete
One million square feet
The biggest on earth
Unimaginable girthmithfield Workers in Tar Heel, NC
A daily drill
Of a 32,000 hog kill
Behind the Kitchen Door - New research finds discrimination and poor working conditions pervasive in food service
Jobs in the restaurant industry have grown significantly faster than jobs in other industries in the past decade, but the benefits of those jobs do not always make it to workers. Some 18% of all jobs in the US are in the food sector, and these are the lowest paid jobs in all industries on the nation.
January 7, 2010
By Eric Holt-Gimenez and Zoe Brent
FRESNO, CALIFORNIA: Food aid is rolling in to the breadbasket of California. In Fresno County, the state's most productive agricultural area, a hunger crisis has been unfolding for the better part of a year. Some 90,000 people a week lined up at local food banks this holiday season, many of them farm workers. Owing to what he declared a "drought disaster" California Governor Schwarzenegger delivered $4 million in food aid to Fresno last June. This winter he pledged to extend the aid indefinitely.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AND USDA SET DATES FOR WORKSHOPS TO EXPLORE COMPETITION AND REGULATORY ISSUES IN THE AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY.
This livestock industry workshop will be held in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Specific areas of focus will address beef, hog and other animal sectors and
may include enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and concentration.
This is the fourth in a series of workshops convened by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Workshops were held in Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Washington, D.C. and Wisconsin.
Workers throughout the food supply chain are under-paid and under-protected. Last year, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics listed food preparation and serving-related occupations as the lowest paid of all occupational categories ($8.59 median wage) followed by farming, fishing and forestry occupations ($9.34 median wage). The same report shows that food-manufacturing workers have been hit disproportionately hard with mass layoffs during this economic recession (USBLS).
By Zoe BrentThroughout its value chain, the US Food System employs approximately 17% of all US workers. Yet, food workers are being exploited - many are even going hungry!This undermines the sustainability of the entire food system.Jobs in the food sector are bad and getting worse!According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008 Economic Report, food preparation and serving related occupations are the lowest paid ofall occupational categories, followed by farming, fishing and forestry occupations.
A job is a job right? Wrong. Increasingly, permanent, economically secure, jobs have become a thing of the past, rapidly being replaced by temporary, short-term contract work. Typically, large firms hire someone else to provide them with temp workers, who fill many of their low-wage, low-skill jobs. Why? All personnel, insurance and labor issues relating to those employees automatically become the domain of the contract agent. In this way, big corporate brands like Dole Foods, Safeway, Lucky, etc.
Low-wage jobs in the US are increasingly filled by immigrant workers and people of color. Because of the vulnerability of workers with guest visas, or without documentation, the potential for exploitation is high.