[Marxism] Smithfield Strike

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Mon Nov 20 09:46:01 MST 2006

Joaquin, I'd be interested to know your reaction to the Smithfield strike.

I hadn't intended to participate in the discussion about the relations
between class, nation, and gender which is a very old and complex one, but
I'm always interested in how one's understanding of these concepts - which
are by nature abstract and can lead in constructive or dangerous
directions - translate in practice.
It seems to me if you have a perspective that there is no longer, in effect,
a Western "working class" but only "white racist workers" who are part of
the oppressor nation, you might logically be warning Latino and other
minority workers in Smithfield against joining the "white" trade union and
other organizations - in this case, signing UFCW cards - and encouraging
them instead to organize independently of the white workers in a parallel
union of their own.

Is this what you propose in Smithfield? Or would you still advise Latinos to
maintain solidarity with the white workers like Bruskin and Ludlum (see
below) and and to stick with the UFCW organizing drive, in which some
Latinos like Pena seem even to be in the forefront. Obviously, this doesn't
preclude caucusing.

Your response would give us all, I think, a much better idea of how sharply
(or not) you are breaking with your old politics.

Smithfield Workers Return to N.C. Plant

Sunday, November 19, 2006
TAR HEEL, N.C. (AP) -- Employees at a Smithfield Foods Inc. slaughtering
plant returned to work Saturday after walking off their jobs the
previous two days to protest the recent firing of immigrants.

In all, about 1,000 nonunion workers, mostly Hispanic, participated in
the walkout, and company officials have said they won't be disciplined.

Gene Bruskin, a representative of the United Food and Commercial Workers
Union who serves as the Smithfield campaign director, called the
agreement a "historic break" and said in a statement that the company
negotiating "over the workers' concerns is an example of the kind of
process that benefits everyone."


The frustration was in reference to what one union spokeswoman called
the company’s long history of intimidation to stop organization.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in May that
Smithfield was guilty of threatening workers trying to unionize more
than 10 years ago. The court required the company to post notices and
mail letters stating it will never assault, interrogate or intimidate
workers seeking to organize.

Some of the employees standing outside the plant Thursday said
harassment and intimidation still goes on but is now targeted at


Marvin Prioleau, a community relations employee at the plant, said the
claims of discrimination against Hispanics are an overhyped
misunderstanding fueled by the union. He said the company is trying to
prevent a raid, not get rid of those who want to unionize.

Worker support
Communication at the scene was chaotic as only one translator from the
company addressed the crowd. Union workers and employees translated over
bullhorns to workers still wearing their hard hats and ear plugs
dangling around their necks.

Eduardo Pena, one of about a dozen union representatives in yellow
shirts passing out water and petitions to the workers, said the union is
not officially endorsing the walkout and that they were there to support
the workers.

Keith Ludlum, a worker at the plant who was fired in 1994 after trying
to organize a union attempt, said he hopes this is the first of many
stands workers take. “I think it’s fantastic,” he said.

Dressed in a yellow, waterproof suit with “Union Time” written on his
blood-spattered jacket, Ludlum said all workers want is a fair work

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