Jerry Meek on Smithfield Foods

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

Dear Theresa:

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,

JERRY MEEK
Chair

You can view the letter in pdf here.

Click here for the campaign for justice at Smithfield.

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.

Click here for more stories from injured workers who were fired when they attempted to raise safety concerns.

Comments

Wow.

I can't think of a better company to blow off than Smithfield Foods. Great job, Jerry. And thanks for the post, Jerimee.

Good on Jerry.

In addition to being smart, he lives by and sticks to his beliefs.

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry Truman

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Hell yeah, Jerry

Great job.

Go Jerry!!!

Great letter.

very nice!

Now that is some backbone

"jump in where you can and hang on"
Briscoe Darling to Sheriff Andy

The next thing you know, Blackwater will be trying to buy their

way, er, donate their way into the Democratic Party.

It seems like some corporations are beginning to see which way the winds of change are blowing and they want to get in on the ground floor.

North Carolina. Turning the South Blue!

North Carolina. Turning the South Blue!

That is leadership.

Thank you, Jerry.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

In case you missed Jerimee's link

You can read about many of the reasons the Democratic Party should reject Smithfield's blood money here.

Praise for Jerry.

Jerry gets heaps of scorn for things out of his control, I hope that everyone will recognize the risk he took standing up for progressive values and labor. I do.

I Twitter, Therefore I Am.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Give 'em hell Jerry!

People like you are one of the reasons I don't write off the Democratic Party. Now, if we can just get more people with your wit and courage in more positions in the party...

Thank you, Jerry

I wish I could match the money that Smithfield was planning to give the NCDP. You did the right thing.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic, the ass you save may be your own.

Perhaps we can campaign to do just that.

I have no idea how much Smithfield was going to donate to NCDP, and Great Goddess knows I don't have money to spare, but I'll pledge $25. I wasn't going to donate at the State level. Because of tight finances, I was going to keep things local and directly to candidates.

But I think this calls for recognition - and so I'm going to recognize it, in my own small way. Will you join me?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

FYI

Even though we didn't ask, we did get a small outpouring of support in response to this. This is important, because it suggests that it is strategically viable (along with ethical) to make these tough decisions.

Thanks Linda.

- - - - -
McCain - The Third Bush Term

Of course it is strategically viable.

Democrats (most of us) want our party to represent what is the best among us, not the worst.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

So what is the going price for the soul of a political party?

Well this day, our party is NOT for sale. So STUFF IT Smithfield.

Well done Jerry.

Person County Democrats

Way to go Jerry!

I'm aghast. THANK YOU, Jerry, for this.

Boy what an overdue morale booster to read something like this coming from the Democratic Party in North Carolina.

This is a hell of a statement and makes me awfully damned glad I haven't given up on the party.

Brunette

Hell. Yes.

n/t

Thanks, Jerry

Way to go. You speak for me and my friends when you stand up for the workers. We don't need their money.

Jerry Meek!

You have validated the very high regard I have always held you in.

Keeping the Ethics and Human regard bars high is a hallmark of Democratic beliefs and practice. You are maintaining this ethos well.

I am glad to call you friend.

Marshall Adame
2014 U.S. Congress Candidate NC-03

Thank You, Jerry!

We're lucky to have you for our voice.

Finally, someone with backbone!

Whew! How refreshing. Now there are two who are willing to take a stand Jerry Meeks and John Edwards. Thanks.

Backbone

Just sent the donation in honor of Smithfield. This will help energize us for the battles ahead. Heard the Repugs talk about our candidates tonight. ugh.

but we are tough

TurnNCBlue

Thanks, TurnNCblue!

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

The difference..

I can only add to the accolades for Mr Meek in showing there is a difference between political parties in NC. I'm sure they will get a big hug from the NC GOP!