Smithfield Packing, the largest pork processor in the world, is trying to get the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and its allies convicted for ‘extortion’ under anti-mafia legislation. The Global Labor Strategies (GLS) website warns that constitutional rights are at stake.
Smithfield targets a so-called ‘corporate campaign’ run by UFCW, Jobs with Justice and other organisations. The campaign includes reporting on health and safety conditions; leafleting at supermarkets and calling on city councils to boycott Smithfield. According to Smithfield, these activities constitute a conspiracy to extort the company into meeting union demands.
At the Smithfield plant, “5,000 workers slaughter up to 32,000 hogs per day [...] Wages start at under $9 per hour and working conditions are brutal. The pace of work is fast and injuries are commonplace. The atmosphere is repressive: Smithfield operates its own police force with a reputation for brutality and with the power to arrest and hold workers in an on-site jail cell”, GLS reports. The plant was featured in a Human Rights Watch report on conditions in the meat processing sector.
Smithfield is not the only company to try to use anti-mafia legislation in an attempt to silence unions and their allies. The Wackenhut Corporation, an American subsidiary of security company G4S, has taken similar action against the Service Employees International Union. Wackenhut has been criticised for abuses at the privatised prisons it operates.
Source: GLS. See also Smithfield Justice