LABORERS' UNION 'HAMS IT UP' IN NORTH CAROLINA; SMITHFIELD PACKING COMPANY EMPLOYEES VOTE FOR LIUNA
October 18, 1994, Tuesday
Don't tell the 420 workers at the Smithfield Packing Company in Kinston, N.C., that the labor movement is dead ... or that unions can't win elections in the impossible-to- organize south. These hard-working people – who perform some of the most difficult jobs imaginable -- won't believe you, and they've got good reason. Last week, they voted to join the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), one of the largest and fastest-growing unions in the entire labor movement.
The predominately African-American ham processing and packing house workers voted to join LIUNA Local Union 404 on Friday, Oct. 14. More than 700 workers at Smithfield's Virginia plant are already members of LIUNA Local Union 1046, which was organized 30 years ago. Smithfield Packing Company is a division of Smithfield Foods.
"This is not just a victory for the workers at Smithfield and the Laborers' International Union. This is a victory for the entire labor movement and truly a victory of the human spirit. These workers fought hard for simple and basic rights: dignity and justice," stated LIUNA General President Arthur A. Coia.
"These workers needed and wanted the same benefits, wages and treatment that their colleagues at other unionized Smithfield plants enjoy. They fought for across-the-board equity ... and with a Laborers' Union contract, they'll get it," Coia added.
"What makes this win even sweeter is the fact that we tried to organize the Kinston plant 12 years ago," commented LIUNA Vice President and Regional Manager Jack Wilkinson. "We never even got close to the front door. This time, we came to North Carolina with renewed enthusiasm and a commitment to win for the workers. That made all the difference."
But for Mike Streeter, a four-year veteran of Smithfield's stuffing department, this victory has an even deeper meaning. "Organizing a union is not about more money for me ... it goes way beyond that. This campaign and this union is about getting my rights and being treated with respect."
In recent months, LIUNA has gained national attention for significant organizing victories, including 1,000 poultry processing workers in Mississippi, 350 sanitation workers and 350 pari-mutuel clerks in Florida, and 270 health care workers in Washington.
Founded in 1903, LIUNA has nearly 700,000 members working in construction, environmental remediation, maintenance, food service, landscaping, health care and clerical occupation. The union also has members in state, local and municipal governments, and the postal service.
CONTACT: Carl A. Fillichio of the Laborers' International Union of North America Public Affairs,