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Bringing Home the Bacon Brings Controversy Home to TN

June 26, 2007

Tennesseans are being asked to think twice before bringing home the bacon, and ham. Faith and community leaders will be meeting tonight to talk about working conditions for thousands at the biggest pork-processing plant in the world -- the Smithfield Packing Plant in Tar Heel. Keith Ludlum was fired from Smithfield when he tried to form a union. A judge ruled the firing was illegal, and Smithfield had to hire him back. He says court after court has found the company in violation of labor laws.

“It's been proven in court that Smithfield has broken the law over and over again. They've beat up workers when they stood up for their rights. They've had them falsely arrested when they stood up for their rights.”

Ludlum believes the on-the-job injury rate at Smithfield is too high, with more than 400 hurt in just one six-month period last year. He says injuries happen because work pace is too fast, and floors are usually too wet for safety. The plant kills 32,000 hogs a day. Smithfield officials have said there is no need for a union because workers are satisfied with the pay and the company takes safety issues seriously.

Ludlum wants consumers to think about the real cost of Smithfield pork products when making choices at the grocery store.

“When Smithfield abuses and cripples and maims and disables workers for the rest of their lives, the whole community has to pay for that disability.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers union has documented numerous Smithfield court cases over the past ten years. The most recent action this year saw Smithfield paying illegally fired workers $1.5 million in back wages.

The meeting to discuss working conditions is tonight, 7 p.m., Frothy Monkey Coffee House, 2509 12th Avenue South, Nashville.

Deborah Smith/Eric Mack, Public News Service - TN