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Smithfield union vote to be by secret ballot
[November 22, 2008]

Smithfield union vote to be by secret ballot

(Fayetteville Observer, The (Fayetteville, NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 22--TAR HEEL -- The National Labor Relations Board will conduct a secret-ballot election to determine whether to unionize Smithfield Packing Co., according to a labor official.

Howard Neidig, the assistant regional director of the labor board in Greensboro, said Friday the board would carry out an election next month using standard secret ballots.

Smithfield Foods and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union have agreed to hold an election Dec. 10-11 at the Tar Heel plant. Results will be made public following the completion of the vote.

Union leaders once favored organizing through card-check, a process in which a company must recognize a union if more than half of the eligible employees sign a union card. The company has consistently opposed such a system, saying it would allow the union to badger its employees. It supported a secret-ballot vote overseen by a third party.

Workers tried twice in the 1990s to organize under the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. After the union was defeated, the results were challenged with allegations that management harassed and intimidated workers. In May 2006, a federal court ruled that Smithfield must stop anti-union tactics and allow workers to vote.

The agreement to hold an election came about after Smithfield Foods and the union reached a settlement in October in a federal lawsuit filed by Smithfield Foods in Virginia. Smithfield agreed to drop its racketeering and extortion lawsuit against labor organizers. In return, the union agreed to end a publicity campaign against Smithfield. The union had called for product boycotts to gain support for an election in Tar Heel, home to the world's largest hog slaughterhouse.

The union began its boycott campaign against Smithfield in June 2006 in an attempt to pressure the company to unionize the plant, which has about 4,650 employees.

Smithfield filed a civil racketeering lawsuit in October 2007, days after talks broke down over how to conduct a union election at the Tar Heel plant.

Staff writer Venita Jenkins can be reached at or (910) 738-9158.

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