Today Jerry Meek attempted to discretely decline a donation from Smithfield Foods.
Their reaction was typical of Smithfield: threats and intimidation.
It is sadly the truth that Smithfield has gotten away with intimidating their workers for over a decade. While Smithfield may be adept at denying the defenseless a voice, they apparently had less luck with my boss:
Ms. Theresa Kostrzewa
2349 Churchill Road
Raleigh, NC 27608
RE: Smithfield Foods and Smithfield Packing
I wanted to follow-up with you regarding our conversation this morning. In that conversation, I informed you of our decision not to accept a contribution from your clients, Smithfield Foods and Smithfield Packing. You indicated that I was making a big mistake, and that you were going to notify corporate executives across this State of our decision not to accept this contribution.
The North Carolina Democratic Party recognizes the importance of businesses, large and small, to creating economic opportunities for all. We have long demonstrated our commitment to fostering a climate in which businesses can thrive. Indeed, our State’s national reputation as one of the best business environments in the country is the product of decades of prudent leadership by the elected officials of our Party.
We do not believe that a company must violate worker rights, or flaunt the law, in order to prosper. And I refuse to believe that the corporate executives you have threatened to speak with about this matter could condone the flagrant disregard for worker rights, worker safety, and the environment. Law abiding corporations are at a competitive disadvantage when others fail to respect the law or to uphold basic human rights.
The record of Smithfield Foods is all too clear.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined Smithfield Foods for over 7000 violations of the Clean Water Act. The U.S. Department of Labor has repeatedly cited Smithfield Foods for violating the nation’s child labor laws. OSHA has cited Smithfield Foods for repeated workplace safety violations, including the exposure of workers to corrosive chemicals, the use of unguarded blades on cutting equipment, and blocked exits. And the National Labor Relations Board has found that Smithfield Foods engaged in intimidation, threats, and retaliatory practices in response to workers’ efforts to improve their conditions.
In 2000, Smithfield Foods became the only meatpacking plant in the United States with its own armed police force. In the ensuing years, this force was found to use violence, intimidation, and threats against the company’s own workers.
It is noteworthy when the internationally respected organization, Human Rights Watch, calls a company to task for violating human rights. I doubt that many of the executives you have threatened to discuss this matter with manage companies that face such scrutiny.
In conclusion, we stand by our decision. I do encourage you to discuss this matter with other executives, but only if you reveal in the process your clients’ full record on worker safety, environmental protection, and human rights. Please feel free to ask them to contact me if they have questions.
With Best Wishes,
Donald Turner wrote the following about his experience at Smithfield:
I began working at Smithfield in late 2006. When I came in, they had me doing all sorts of different jobs. After about 6 weeks on the job, they sent me to work on a band saw, even though that was a job that I hadn’t been trained for yet. The work was very fast and I was trying hard to keep up. Suddenly some meat slipped out of my coworker’s hand and as he grabbed it, my hand got knocked into the saw. I heard something snap but I didn’t know what was happening. It wasn’t until I looked down that I realized my first finger had been sliced off, and my second finger was only hanging by a thread. I went to the clinic. There was a lot of blood everywhere. Even still, they made me take a drug test before they sent me to the hospital. They put my finger in a plastic bag but the ice melted and they couldn’t reattach it. My life is a nightmare now. I’m permanently damaged.