WASHINGTON -- January 10 -- A unanimous panel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) affirmed the ruling by an Administrative Law Judge that found that Smithfield engaged in an extensive and illegal campaign to suppress worker rights at its mammoth Tar Heel, North Carolina, pork plant. The NLRB, in a recent ruling, upheld the 2000 decision that outlined widespread human and worker rights abuses committed by plant managers when workers attempted to stand up for a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW).
The nearly 5,000 pork processing workers stood up for a voice on the job twice. The first campaign in 1994 resulted in numerous charges filed against Smithfield for illegal surveillance, intimidation, threats, coercion and harassment of workers. In 1997, workers again attempted to organize with the UFCW and the company pulled out all the stops.
The NLRB's ruling reaffirms the Judge's strong language against the company's flagrant disregard for the law in which he asked the Board to investigate whether or not Smithfield attorneys suborned perjury during the trial. The Judge also ruled that company witnesses "lied under oath" throughout the decision. The Board's investigation of this allegation is underway.
Further findings include:
- Smithfield managers conspired with the local Sheriff Department to physically intimidate and assault union supporters.
- Sheriff deputies -- in riot gear and heavily armed-- stationed themselves at the entrance to the plant on days that civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson and other religious leaders handed out literature with workers.
- The company planned and instigated a "riot" following the vote count in 1997 that led to false arrests of a union supporter.
- Smithfield held forced meetings to intimidate and threaten workers for supporting the union.
- Smithfield paid workers above their normal rate to spy on co-workers and turn in union supporters to management consultants.
- Smithfield forced a management employee produce false statements to the Board in an attempt to cover-up anti-union activity.
- Smithfield also threatened to close the plant if the workers chose a union.
- The Board found Smithfield guilty of illegally firing ten workers during the two campaigns.
The NLRB also overturned the results from the 1997 union election at Smithfield and ordered a new election. The format and location of any future election will be determined by the Board's Regional Director. The ten illegally fired workers have also been granted reinstatement and back wages as compensation for their unfair discharges.
The UFCW co-sponsors a worker center in Red Springs, North Carolina that serves workers from the Tar Heel plant and surrounding areas with assistance with health and safety issues, immigration, English-as-a-Second Language, workers compensation, and social service referrals.