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Workers� no shows cut production at Smithfield Tar Heel plant, North Carolina

Posted to the IUF website 16-Jan-2007

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Production at Smithfield's Tar Heel plant was cut and the plant operated a single line at some point on January 15 as more than 500 workers walked off or called in sick in order to attend a commemoration service for Martin Luther King at a local church.

The company�s Vice President, Larry Johnson, had earlier announced that workers could be fired if they left work on Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday in the US, to attend commemorative events.

Two weeks ago, Smithfield Packing officials refused to accept a petition signed by thousands of workers demanding the holiday as a paid day-off and announced retaliation measures including lost pay and dismissal.

The fact that the company is threatening to punish workers who want to celebrate Martin Luther King Day is consistent with past practice at Smithfield's. Legal rulings by the National Labour Relations Board (the federal agency responsible for overseeing labour relations in the USA) have affirmed that Smithfield has assaulted workers, hurled racial epithets at them and intimidated them. Smithfield Packing has also been denounced in two Human Rights Watch reports for widespread, dangerous working conditions. A recent report based on data from the US Federal agency for Occupational Safety and Health, found that the injury rate at the plant has risen by 200 percent since 2003.

Last November, hundreds of workers walked out and shut down the Tar Heel plant to protest against Smithfield's improper use of the workers' personal data to dismiss 50 of their colleagues.

Over the last 12 years, Smithfield Tar Heel workers have been supported by IUF US affiliate United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in their struggle for dignity, decent health and safety conditions and for a collective agreement.