[Marxism] Smithfield Strike

Jon Flanders jonflanders at jflan.net
Mon Nov 20 20:42:07 MST 2006

On Mon, 2006-11-20 at 19:23 -0800, Rod Holt wrote:
> ??? ? ???Three cheers for Jon!??This stuff is as important as anything
> in years, right up there ?with?SOS and the Delphi fight. Everybody on
> the Marxmail list should ?watch?closely and post anything they find.
> Maybe we can help at some point.??  

A place to start for information is the Human Rights Watch report
"Blood, Sweat and Fear" at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/usa0105/

Here's their summation of the situation at the Smithfield Plant. I was
wrong about African American workers being a majority in the plant. Now
immigrant workers are. Not all Latinos of course.

Jon F

            <<Tar Heel, North Carolina and Smithfield Foods

Well into the twentieth century North Carolina was a state dominated by
two main industries, textile manufacturing and agriculture. The
population and labor force were almost entirely Anglo-American and
African-American. In the last half of the twentieth century, the state’s
economy diversified in important ways. High-tech development clustered
around universities in the Research Triangle of the
Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. Multinational electrical, auto, and
machinery producers opened new factories while many of the textile mills
closed. Raising chickens and hogs supplanted traditional farming in many
areas as companies such as Tyson Foods, Perdue, and Smithfield Foods
opened slaughtering and processing facilities around the state. North
Carolina farmers now raise $1.3 billion worth of chickens and $1.4
billion worth of hogs per year.6

Like many states of the South and Midwest that twenty years ago had a
negligible immigrant population, North Carolina has seen dramatic
increases in foreign workers. About half a million of North Carolina’s
eight-and-a-half million residents are immigrants, but the state had the
single highest rate of immigrant population increase among all fifty
states during the 1990-2000 decade: a 274 percent increase from 115,000
to 430,000 in 2000 (and more than 500,000 today). Arkansas was fourth
with a 196 percent increase.7 

When Smithfield opened its Tar Heel plant in 1993, fewer than 10 percent
of the hourly employees were immigrants. Today an estimated half of the
plant’s workers are Hispanic immigrants. African-Americans make up about
40 percent of the workforce.8

Dominating the flat, sparsely populated terrain around it, where tobacco
and sweet potato farms are giving way to hog growing, Smithfield Foods'
incongruously immense hog-processing plant draws some five thousand
workers each day from the eastern half of the state. Smithfield is the
largest pork producer in the United States. Its Tar Heel plant is the
largest hog-killing facility in the country. Workers there slaughter,
cut, pack, and ship more than twenty-five thousand hogs a day. 

Headquartered in Smithfield, Virginia and incorporated there, Smithfield
Foods is the largest hog producer and pork processor in the world, with
$7 billion in annual sales under its own name and the names of acquired
companies including John Morrell & Co. and Patrick Cudahy, Inc. In 2002
Smithfield diversified into beef production, acquiring Packerland
Holdings, Inc. and Moyer Packing Co.

Smithfield Foods employs more than thirty thousand workers in the United
States in twelve plants in ten states. Approximately seventeen thousand
employees in U.S. locations are not union-represented.

Smithfield plants in the Southeast and Midwest slaughter and process
eighty thousand hogs per day. Following the acquisitions of Packerland
Holdings, Inc. and Moyer Packing Co., Smithfield became the fifth
largest fresh beef producer in the United States; five beef slaughtering
plants process eight thousand cattle per day. 

Smithfield Foods is a multinational corporation with operations in
Canada, Mexico, China and several European countries and has more than
$1 billion in international sales.9>>

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