Your article on Smithfield left out some important facts about the company that, in the interest of fairness and balance, we would like to share with readers of the Bladen Journal.
The facts are not simply our opinions but findings by the US Court of Appeals, the National Labor Relations Board, OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the internationally respected human rights group Human Rights Watch, an organization cited as a credible source by both the Bush Administration and Congress.
Legal rulings in several cases decided by the US Court of Appeals and the National Labor Relations Board found that Smithfield assaulted, hurled racial epithets at, harassed, intimidated and illegally fired its workers who were advocating for a union at the plant in order to improve conditions that they felt were unsafe and unfair. Regardless of your opinion on unions, clearly those actions are unwarranted and not in keeping with what we would describe as good corporate citizenship. This year, Smithfield paid over $1 million to nine workers after the US Court of Appeals ordered the company to provide back pay plus interest after firing them illegally for advocating for better working conditions. In a separate case, the company was found to have used its private company police force, thankfully disbanded in 2005, to beat and threaten workers with arrest who were fighting for better conditions with Smithfield’s cleaning company QSI. QSI settled that case while Smithfield is appealing the ruling, still refusing to give justice to those employees.
Injuries at the plant have risen 200 percent since 2003 according to OSHA data and documented in a report by Research Associates of America. Human Rights Watch has produced two reports accusing the company of widespread, dangerous working conditions.
And we personally know of too many workers whoattend our churches and were severely injured from working at Smithfield. Many of these loyal employees tell us they are subsequently fired after the injuries become so severe they are not able to keep up with the work. These workers find their lives and their families shattered by the resulting unemployment, subsequent lack of health care and crippling injuries.
We have formed a coalition of faith, community and business leaders to encourage Smithfield to change these practices. We think the company has a lot to potentially offer our community. We ultimately want Smithfield to become the kind of company you describe in the article.
Rev. Gregory A. Taylor,
Pastor, First Baptist Church
F. W. Newton, Owner,
Newton’s Funeral Home,