This is an excerpt from my book, No Shortcuts, pertinent to the vote by Amazon workers in Alabama.
This chapter demonstrates how motivation and strategy may have more to do with failure and success across all sectors of workers than previously thought. Most academics have long assumed that organizing the unorganized might be possible only among low-wage service workers. The case study of Smithfield Foods returns the focus to the private sector, to the organization of the world’s largest pork production facility, in rural North Carolina—the state with the lowest rate of unionization in the United States. The workers there are mostly men, and the employer had encouraged and exploited racial and ethnic tensions among them so profoundly as to turn the plant into a de facto Jim Crow enclave. It was in this unpromising context that the workers in a traditional private-sector factory were organized into a strong union that achieved a stunning win.
Once the union understood that we had to run a campaign where race was a central issue, where race and class were given equal weight and the intersectionality of the two was lifted up, and we reframed the fight as a moral fight, we won in just two years. People trying to win these fights with morality or race off the table, versus front and center, are starting fights with one hand tied behind their back.
Rev. Dr. William Barber, Moral Mondays1
KING COUNTY, WASHINGTON, HAS a population of 2 million. Ninety-three percent of its people are city dwellers; most of them live in Seattle. At the time I am writing this, the median household income is $71,175, and the average rent for a two-bedroom house is $1,123 per month.2 In 2014, there was a successful campaign to increase Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2022 (by which time, incidentally, that $15 will not be $15; it will be worth less, since Seattle didn’t index it to inflation). The story was banner news worldwide in print and broadcast media, and a cause célèbre for many liberals.
Meanwhile, without the fanfare of a single national headline, another kind of contract in a very different region also introduced a wage of $15 an hour. Bladen County, in southeastern North Carolina, has a population of 35,843. Ninety-one percent of those people live in the countryside; the rest are in the county’s few small towns. Thirty-five percent are African American. At the time of writing, the median (p.144) income is $30,031, and the average rent for a two-bedroom house is $637 per month.
In 2008, in the county’s tiny town of Tar Heel, 5,000 workers at the Smithfield Foods pork factory voted to form a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). It was the single largest private-sector union victory of the new millennium.3 And it happened in the South, in the state with the lowest rate of union membership in the entire country: 3 percent.4 The new, ratified contract not only guaranteed a $15-an-hour wage but also paid sick leave, paid vacation, health care, retirement benefits, overtime pay, guaranteed minimum work hours, job security through a “just cause” provision, and tools to remedy dangerous working conditions. The wage alone far outranks Washington’s; given the dollar’s buying power in Bladen County, King County workers would have to earn $26.40 an hour to equal it.5
Because the union signed a ‘gag order’ as part of the final deal to reach a ‘fair’ union election process, little has been said or written about the campaign since the workers won it, depriving other Southern workers of a very important example of how labor can win in the new millennium in the many manufacturing plants that have moved to the region. In Chapter Two, I discussed the negative effects of gag orders during collective bargaining, a staple imposition of the New Labor era (and labor writ large). The Smithfield gag order may well have hampered workers in the U.S. South from believing that they, too, can win, like the workers in rural North Carolina.
In this chapter I highlight the decisive moments in the campaign when the decisions of the key individuals made the difference between winning and losing. I identify these decisions as embodying the organizing strategy that differs from New Labor’s mobilizing approach.
The Global South Within the Global North
Smithfield Foods is the largest pork producer in the world. It is a vertically integrated company that owns tens of thousands of acres of land where Smithfield farmers and contractors raise hogs that are taken to company-owned plants for slaughter, production, and packing, and then shipped to all 50 states as well as exported to China, Japan, and Europe. In the U.S. alone, the company markets twelve distinct brands, (p.145) including Healthy Ones, Margherita, Farmland, and Armour. They have another fifty brands globally. Smithfield’s land ownership and farms were historically concentrated in the Deep South, because of that region’s lax environmental laws and lack of unions. But by the 1980s, Smithfield Foods had begun expanding out of the Deep South. The first mechanism that facilitated their expansion was a rash of acquisitions of existing smaller pork producers, mostly in the Midwest. The second was the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. NAFTA’s success, if not its key objective, depended on many domestic rules in the United States, Canada, and Mexico being changed to facilitate global capital’s mobility between the three countries.
One such change was a mandate that Mexico amend its constitution to allow foreigners to own Mexican land; previously, this had been against the law. Mexico after NAFTA would prove useful to the Smithfield company because it had basically no environmental laws and even less enforcement of what laws there were than the U.S. South. Typical hog farms concentrate thousands of animals in small spaces, creating lake-sized waste pools containing a toxic brew of blood, bones, and guts mixed with poisons that at least theoretically stop the waste pools from generating or spreading deadly mosquito-borne or other diseases. The combination of low to no laws, zero enforcement, and a second NAFTA requirement, permission for Mexican trucks and truckers to move their rigs across the U.S. border, would make Mexico a new, strategic enclave for Smithfield.
In the late 1980s, prior to NAFTA, Smithfield had viewed North Carolina as a mini-Mexico inside the U.S. The workforce had darker skin and spoke English. A big international ocean port, a plantation legal culture, and lax laws advantaged southeastern North Carolina when the company decided to build the biggest hog plant in the world. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert described the place in a 2006 column: “Spending a few days in Tar Heel and the surrounding area—dotted with hog farms, cornfields, and the occasional Confederate flag—is like stepping back in time. This is a place where progress has slowed to a crawl.”6 And the pork plant in Tar Heel opened for production in 1992. Today, 32,000 hogs a day are slaughtered and processed in this single plant. Five thousand workers staff departments with names like the Kill Floor, the Gas Chamber, and the Hanging (p.146) and Rehanging Rooms. Meat production is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, and a Human Rights Watch report in 2005 listed six factors that make meat factories deadly to the humans as well as the hogs: Line Speed, Close-Quarters Cutting, Heavy Lifting, Sullied Work Conditions, Long Hours, and Inadequate Training and Equipment.7
Failure Round I
In 1993, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the UFCW, decided to help workers at the new Tar Heel plant form a union. The UFCW was founded in 1979 through several mergers of four older unions, including the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America, chartered by the American Federation of Labor in 1897, which in 1937 was reformulated by the Congress of Industrial Organizations, (CIO), into a new union, the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee (PWOC).8 The PWOC, a union heavily influenced by Communists and socialists in its heyday,9 was the union that Saul Alinsky partnered with in Chicago in his first community organizing effort, the Back of the Yards Council.10 Upton Sinclair described the conditions in the Chicago meat-packing plants in his 1906 novel The Jungle.11
The UFCW had other Smithfield Foods plants in several Midwestern states that had long been under union contract. But the union presence in these Midwestern plants was not the result of contemporary organizing by the UFCW, but rather of Smithfield Foods’ aggressive acquisition during the 1980s of smaller companies like John Morrell and Farmland, plants and companies that had been unionized by the PWOC in its more radical days, in the decades prior to the election of Ronald Reagan and Reagan’s campaign to deunionize America. But the Tar Heel plant dwarfed all other facilities in size, workforce numbers, and production output. The union understood that its ability to hold or set decent standards in its older Midwestern meat-packing contracts would be eroded or threatened if it couldn’t organize a union in the shiny new factory, the biggest such facility in the world. The Tar Heel plant was so massive that its arrival instantly altered the balance of power between the union and the company. The plant had been open for one year when the UFCW (p.147) first attempted a unionization drive, in 1994. The UFCW approached the drive as if it were still the early 1970s, following the standard union playbook, which requires that the union get 30 percent of the workers to sign union authorization cards, then file for an election at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The company also followed a standard playbook, the employer’s, but unlike the union’s, theirs had been updated for the post-Reagan era and systematically broke almost every law on the labor books, with tactics that included intimidation, threats, and even violence. The company beat the union: 704 votes for the employer, 587 for the union, in a low-turnout election. But Smithfield had violated the National Labor Relations Act so egregiously that the underfunded and understaffed NLRB actually managed to prioritize an investigation into the election abuses and reports that had been filed by workers through the union. Three years later, in 1997, the NLRB concluded their investigation and found that the company committed a series of flagrant violations in 1994, and ordered a new election to be held.12
The union in those years could gently be characterized as inept. Its leadership seemed to have missed Reagan’s election and big business’s clarion call to wipe unions out of the private sector through union busting, trade deals, automation, and plant relocation to nonunion states. Joseph Luter III, the third-generation family CEO at Smithfield, met with a senior official of the UFCW shortly after the NLRB ruling and made a personal promise in writing not to break the law as union and company headed into the second round.
Round II, New Labor is Elected at the AFL-CIO
By the 1997 election, one substantial factor affecting workers had changed: The first contested election ever at the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) had brought new leadership to the top of the house of organized labor. The UFCW had campaigned vigorously against the winning slate, clearly aligning itself with an older generation of unionists who seemed resigned to the status quo of slow union death. Now the new team at the AFL-CIO was beginning to make changes at the state level in the State Federations of Labor, and also in the county and municipal Central Labor Councils (p.148) (CLCs). The national AFL-CIO is a constitutionally weak federation; it can’t dictate policy to national unions, but it can have a significant impact on more local federations of labor. The AFL-CIO in North Carolina, seeing the handwriting on the wall coming into the 1997 Smithfield election, as a last-ditch effort persuaded the UFCW to mobilize some community support for the workers. To help the union in its Smithfield drive, they sent in Roz Pellas, a well-known North Carolina activist who had recently been hired as part of the new wave of reform at the AFL-CIO, and assigned to the North Carolina Federation of Labor. Pellas recalls:
We were called in six weeks before the election, and even though we were able to broaden the campaign beyond the plant gates in 1997, by talking to Black ministers, and tribal chiefs, it was too little, too late. They (the union) had never done this before, worker organizing and community organizing at the same time. It was simply too late; the approach was right, but it has to be from the beginning, not slapped on in the end.13
Because the union approached the second election with an only slightly modified playbook, with the modifications coming too little and too late, the result was a second and even more disastrous election defeat: 1910 votes for the employer, 1107 for the union.14
Pellas, the only woman who was allowed into the National Labor Relations vote count in 1997, described in horrific detail the scene during that second election, conducted over three days:
It was a defeat in many ways, not just the numbers, we were being chased down the stairs by goons, the NLRB agents were hiding under the voting tables, the company was having people arrested outside as they tried to come in and vote, Smithfield had hired and deputized their own police force dressed in riot gear and stationed them all around the plant for the election, forcing workers to do something like walk the plank if they attempted to vote in the election.15
More than 100 labor law violations were filed by the union against the company resulting from the 1997 “election.” Pellas described it as something beyond a loss—more a beat-down of epic proportions; the kind of drubbing intended to drive what professional union busters call (p.149) futility, along with fear, into the hearts and minds of workers, so they’d never again think about forming a union.
It should have been blatantly obvious from the scale of the violations of the first election in 1994 that the company would repeat, if not double down on, their behavior in the 1997 election. The notion that the leader of the UFCW accepted a personal promise from the boss is unimaginable. Although the NLRB investigators had found in favor of the union after the 1994 election, the board had imposed no fines or penalties on the company for its illegal behavior, so there was no incentive against a repeat performance. One of many examples of the union’s poor judgment was its decision to hold the 1997 election at all. One tool a union can use heading into an election is to deploy a tactic called blocking charges: The union gathers evidence from workers that the “laboratory conditions for the election” have been so tainted as to render the possibility of a fair election moot. The NLRB has to react immediately to “blocking charges” and determine whether or not to suspend the election. Assessing the more than 150 violations filed by the union after the 1997 election—the sheer number and types of charges that took nine years to investigate—it seems clear the union’s staff leadership, had they been experienced, should have discussed with the worker leaders an alternate route, filing charges to block the election itself, rather than risk putting the workers through what union lingo calls a death march.
After its drubbing in 1997, the union turned back to its legal fight with Smithfield, walking away from the 1,107 Tar Heel workers who had voted to unionize, abandoning contact with them. Meanwhile, over the decade that followed, there was an explosion of Mexican immigration into the region, the direct result of NAFTA as Smithfield scooped up hog farms in Mexico. The company displaced Mexican workers on previously Mexican-owned lands, then helped persuade them to cross the border to work in the big new plant in North Carolina. This was a perverse and extreme extension of the concept of Smithfield’s vertical integration.16
What began as a legal battle over the 100 labor law violations that had taken place during the 1994 election became a case study in how the laws are stacked against workers. At every turn, the National Labor Relations Board would rule in favor of the workers and against the company. And every time this happened, the company dragged out and stalled resolution by an appeal to the next level. This legal fight went (p.150) on for nine years, from 1997 to 2006, until the case reached the U.S. Court of Appeals, which also ruled in favor of the workers and against the company. Facing the Supreme Court as their last option, and, with the likelihood that the court would decline their case based on the pile of evidence produced against them, Smithfield finally stopped their appeals. After more company stalling on other grounds—delaying a hearing with pleas of scheduling conflicts, company lawyers calling in sick—the U.S. Court of Appeals issued an unusually strongly worded demand that the company reinstate workers who had been fired during the 1997 election, and once again ordered a new election.
Round III, Leadership Changes in the National Union Lead to Different Strategies
By the time of this third attempt, a significant change had taken place at the UFCW. Joe Hansen, originally a rank-and-file meat cutter from Milwaukee, had been elected UFCW president, in 2004. Hansen represented a significant departure from his predecessor, Douglas Dority, the union’s second president, who had initially been appointed to his position by the union’s executive board. Dority was strongly aligned with the business unionist old guard of the national labor movement. During the AFL-CIO’s tumultuous 1995 election, the first contested election in the organization’s history, he’d acted as chief campaigner for Thomas Donahue, the union’s establishment candidate. In 2003, five unions formed a coalition inside of the AFL-CIO called the New Unity Partnership (NUP). The NUP represented a group of unions that were demanding changes in the direction of the AFL-CIO, pushing it toward more effective organizing. Dority again had refused to ally himself with the opposition team. But the union’s third president, Joe Hansen, immediately signaled a change in the UFCW’s image and actions by realigning its position in the debate and joining the NUP leaders. By 2005, Hansen went from merely aligning with to becoming the leader of the NUP unions, which would soon break away from the AFL-CIO to form the rival national labor federation, Change to Win, arguing that much more aggressive organizing was not only needed but urgent. Some observers think the real motivation behind Hansen’s decision to align with CTW had more to do with not wanting to pay per capita dues owed to the AFL-CIO, but whatever the reason, these were big changes for the UFCW in a short time period.
(p.151) It was late in 2004, not long after Hansen was elected to his new post, and seven years after the second attempt at a union election at Smithfield in 1997, that the National Labor Relations Board issued its 175-page decision in favor of the workers and against the company.17 Smithfield immediately appealed, again, but, Hansen began sending organizers down to North Carolina, confident that at some point Smithfield would exhaust its court options. The organizers he sent were inexperienced, with the exception of one skilled lead organizer. Though they wasted no time in sending this team, the national union then impeded their own progress for the next year, which they spent in a kind of schizophrenic quandary about whether or how to commit to a new campaign on the ground. They opened up a small worker center, aimed mainly at mutual assistance efforts for the now majority-Latino workforce in the plant. By providing basic immigration legal services and responding to other, largely non-workplace issues facing the new Latino population in the area, they began to make worker contacts.
The change in the national union leadership set up the context for the UFCW’s decision in 2006 to go all out to win at Smithfield, and to do it by radically changing their strategy. As a newly elected national president, Hansen had publicly led his union out of the AFL-CIO on a pledge to organize the unorganized; now he was under pressure to deliver a big organizing win for the union. In January of 2006, four months before the U.S. Court of Appeals issued its strongly worded order compelling Smithfield to follow the National Labor Relations Board’s legal order, Hansen began a new round with Smithfield, with urging and some support from the new Change to Win federation. In some ways, the CTW alliance removed internal obstacles—including staffing decisions—within the union that might have slowed the campaign at Smithfield. A new campaign director was hired to run the Tar Heel organizing drive, under the aegis of the CTW but with heavy funding from the UFCW.
The Staff Leadership
In campaigns to help workers form new unions where none exist, the full-time staff of the union determines how union resources will be used, as there is not yet a local union run by rank-and-file workers. The staff at (p.152) this stage, therefore, plays an outsize role in encouraging or discouraging worker activism, participation, levels of militancy, and more, in addition to setting the framework for what a union will mean to workers who have never had one. In North Carolina, the state with the lowest union density in the United States, just 3 percent, no workers interviewed for this investigation had had any prior involvement in—or in many cases, even any knowledge of—such a thing as a union. Under such circumstances, how the staff talks about the union, literally the semantics used, in addition to key decisions made, will condition the future and set the terms for what kind of union will be created by the workers. In Chapter Three, I discussed how and why union organizers pay very close attention to semantics. In the case of the Smithfield fight, set in a rural region of a state where few unions have ever existed, workers really were literally learning about unions for the first time, so every word of these conversations mattered.
In the previous attempts to unionize the factory, in 1994 and 1997, the union staff had proved inadequate for the task. No matter how many workers wanted the union in the beginning of the campaign in 1994, few of them had understood how the employer would respond. How could they? Had they been in a union stronghold, like the health care workers in New York City, they might have. But in rural North Carolina, as workers later described it, many had never even heard of such a thing as a union. The situation demanded organizers who had sufficient know-how to be able to teach and coach worker-leaders through what was obviously going to be a very hard fight.
Overcoming the two prior defeats at Smithfield would surely signal a new day at the national union. And the new union leadership understood that the conventional approach that had failed twice would fail a third time, if they didn’t change the strategy. Based on the repression level deployed by the employer in the first two attempts, they knew they would have to bring pressure from both outside the workplace—to help create room for the workers to first develop and then sustain a strong worker-led campaign on the inside. By chance, the first person they chose to run the new Smithfield campaign, an internal candidate, had to back out of the role for family reasons. Their second choice was Gene (p.153) Bruskin, a longtime and respected union campaigner. Bruskin’s main role for decades in the labor movement had been as the elected secretary treasurer at the Food and Allied Services Trade (FAST) department of the AFL-CIO, where he was mentored by Jeff Fiedler, FAST’s elected president.18
In his book Restoring the Power of Unions,19 Julius Getman credits the leaders of FAST generally and Fiedler specifically, with helping to invent the modern strategic campaign, experimenting through the 1980s on deploying campaigns that both sought high levels of worker engagement and agency (known as “the ground war”) and also sought to exploit any type of vulnerability a corporation might have outside the workplace (called the “air war”).20 The strategic campaign model that FAST was developing in the 1980s was not simply a corporate campaign. Corporate campaigns typically underuse or entirely bypass the workers and concentrate efforts on a leverage strategy focused on vulnerabilities in the supply chain and the regulatory structure of an employer. Strategic campaigns, by contrast, place at least some emphasis on the inside strategy or the ground war, and the outside strategy, meaning other forms of leverage.
Bruskin is a working-class Jew raised in Philadelphia. “I definitely describe myself as a leftist and have since the ’60s,” he told me in an interview. “I am a child of the ’60s anti-war, anti-racist, anti-sexist movements. I didn’t get involved in the labor movement for ideological reasons. In 1977 I was driving a bus because I was doing community theater and needed an income, and we went on strike to demand a union election and they put me in jail. My politics were central to everything I have done in the labor movement.”21 By the time Bruskin was hired to run the Smithfield campaign, he had had the experience of founding another workers’ organization, U.S. Labor Against the War, formed in 2003 to oppose George Bush’s war in Iraq. He had worked on Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition campaign effort in the early 1990s, and done extensive solidarity work with liberation struggles in Central America, South Africa, the Middle East, and the Philippines. I argue that Bruskin’s left-wing politics significantly informed the organizing strategy he used, a strategy that kept the focus on the workers themselves engaging in class struggle.
I came in as an outsider. I didn’t know meat-packing. Fiedler said, ‘Give it to Bruskin.’ So I made a deal with them [the UFCW], which was I will go on loan to the UFCW if you want me to do this, I am going to hire my own staff, put together my own Smithfield team, control my budget, and you can’t take my people away from the campaign for any reason, I don’t care if you have nine decertification campaigns going someplace else, you can’t touch my team.22
When he met with Joe Hansen, Hansen told Bruskin, “Luter (Smithfield’s CEO) will never give in; I’ve talked to him, he will never give us a deal.”23 In reply, Bruskin thanked Hansen for “giving me the chance to organize the biggest meat-packing plant in the world. I wanted to say, ‘I’d do this for free,’ but I didn’t. I just thanked him.” Bruskin’s years of work with Fiedler oriented the subsequent campaign, a campaign in which Bruskin would at times have to beat back the union’s attempts to downscale, downsize, and diminish the workers’ role. It was Bruskin’s long experience in unions that gave him the foresight during his personal hiring negotiations to place a fortress around his staff and negotiate the autonomy that conditioned the subsequent campaign.
Workers as Primary Actors, aka Worker Agency
They pissed off the wrong motherfucker.24
Keith Ludlum, Smithfield Employee Fired for Union Activism
Bruskin was put in charge of this campaign at the height of the debate between unions in the AFL-CIO and the breakaway unions of the Change to Win federation. The debate is the one I discussed in Chapter Two, the debate between mobilizing and organizing, and about whether or not, as Peter Olney said, “workers get in the way of growth deals.” Some of CTW’s leaders were being heavily influenced by SEIU, especially when it came to central questions of worker agency in campaigns. There was growing pressure on Bruskin to stop focusing so much on the workers. But as the story of this fight will show, the (p.155) intensity of the previous fights had made some of the workers’ leaders extraordinarily skilled, because of their experience in struggle.
The nine-year legal battle over the 1997 election violations culminated in early 2006. On May 5, the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, issued an order for the “Enforcement of an Order of the National Labor Relations Board.”25 The strongly worded eleven-page ruling affirmed the NLRB’s 175-page order issued on December 16, 2004. The December 2004 NLRB order was itself a result of the employer appealing the initial decision in favor of the workers, a more-than-400-page decision by the NLRB’s administrative law judge, or ALJ, on December 15, 2000. Administrative law judges hold hearings that are much like a trial, but within the National Labor Relations Process, in which both sides present their case, with witnesses, lawyers, evidence, and so forth. Though the workers “won” at this first stage, which the employer had already slowed down by obstructing the scheduling of hearings, delaying providing required documents, and other tactics, the employer appealed. Four years later in 2004, the workers won again. And the employer appealed again. Two years later, the workers won for the third time, and still no election or other worker action was possible, as the company stalled through other legal delays.
In 2002, long after the initial trial was concluded, after the case had been heard and was working its way through the many employer appeals, a whistle-blower emerged. A manager quit, a manager who had been in the human resources department at Smithfield and who had been part of the team that had disciplined and fired the union supporters because they were union supporters. Though the trial had been wrapped up two years earlier, the union cleverly engineered for this manager to present testimony, under sworn oath, before a congressional committee. She gave alarming details in her testimony, including that Smithfield told her to engage in illegal activity or she herself would be fired.
This former human resources manager, Sherri Buffkin, told the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in 2002,
“I’m here because Smithfield Foods asked me to lie on an affidavit and made me choose between my job and telling the truth. I’m here today to tell you how Smithfield Foods sought out and punished employees (p.156) because they were union supporters, and that the company remained true to its word that it would stop at nothing to keep the union out.”26
Although this evidence came outside of the earlier trial court process inside the NLRB, because it was sworn under oath before Congress, and because the manager testified that her own affidavits used by the employer in the trial were falsified, this testimony was referenced by the subsequent legal orders.
The contents of the eventual order covered 175 pages because the employer had violated so many laws, each one of which was investigated. For example, in section one of the document, the company was ordered to “cease and desist” a series of behaviors so lengthy that in listing them the NLRB judge exhausted the letters in the alphabet, starting over after “z” with “aa.” They began on page 14, starting with a: The employer shall cease and desist from “threatening employees with plant closure if they select the Union as their collective bargaining agent,” and going all the way through to ee: “In any other manner interfering with, restraining, or coercing its employees in the exercise of their rights.” In particular, x through aa offer sobering insights into and evidence of what the employees had faced in the 1997 election: the company is to “cease and desist from”
x Threating employees that wages would be frozen if the Union were elected as the collective bargaining representative;
y Assaulting employees in retaliation for their union activities.
z Causing the arrest of employees in retaliation for their union activities.
aa Threatening violence in retaliation for employee activities.
In language related to y, the document reads:
In the cafeteria after the ballots in the 1997 election were counted and it became apparent that the Union had lost, [manager] Null and Plant Manager Larry Johnson told Anthony Forrest, an observer for the Respondent, “to go kick Chad Young’s ass.” Forrest then approached Young, and pushing and shoving began in the cafeteria.
Young had been an observer for the union and the employers physically beat him in public, just to make the point that not only would (p.157) the workers lose the election, but union supporters would be physically beaten in front of coworkers, in addition to losing their jobs. The judge also describes how each of ten workers was illegally fired, and stipulates the terms for their rehire, with an order to “make them whole,” meaning pay them back wages from the nine years since their dismissal. Most of these fired workers had long since found alternative employment, died, or moved, one of the objectives the employer’s strategy of stalling was calculated to achieve.
By June 27, 2006, Smithfield was forced under threat of the U.S. Court of Appeals to post a legal “Notice to Employees, Posted Pursuant to a Judgment of the United States Court of Appeals, Enforcing an Order of the National Labor Relations Board.” This document was posted at every time clock and in every break room. In view of the company’s glaring violations, the NLRB also made Smithfield mail it to every single worker who had been employed in the company from 1997 to the present. In addition, the NLRB ordered the company to have an actual NLRB agent enter the factory and over the course of several days read the order aloud in employee meetings. The court also ordered a new election, but the union understood by now that a third election undertaken without some form of preagreement for employer neutrality, union access to the inside of the facility, and an accord limiting company antiworker behavior would be a disaster. The union’s first goal became securing a “card check and neutrality agreement,” requiring the employer to legally recognize the union as the certified collective bargaining agent once a majority of workers had signed union authorization cards.
The conditions at the Smithfield Tar Heels factory were so bad before the union came that some workers joked that there was 100 percent turnover every day. A New York Times reporter, Charlie LeDuff, went undercover and worked in the Smithfield factory in 2000, for what became part of a Pulitzer Prize–winning series on race in America. LeDuff wrote, “Slaughtering swine is repetitive, brutish work, so grueling that three weeks on the factory floor leave no doubt in your mind about why the turnover is 100 percent. Five thousand quit and five thousand are hired every year.”27 LeDuff reported that blacks and Latinos got the dirtiest jobs, with the Latinos at the absolute bottom of the dirty jobs ladder, along with convicts in full prison uniform, who were often allowed to work there just prior to their release (a 2008 spin on wage (p.158) slavery). According to union reports, all joking aside, the turnover at Smithfield actually was nearly 100 percent each year. Three times the UFCW at Tar Heel had received the Excelsior list, the list of employees that employers must give to the union when the NLRB has declared an election will take place. Five thousand employees were different each time, save for some 200 names that overlapped. In the first election in 1994, a majority of the plant’s employees were black. By the 1997 election, some 35 to 40 percent were Latino, the rest being variously black, Native American (Lumbee, mostly), and white. The Center for Immigration Studies reported that during the 1990s, the Latino population in North Carolina ballooned faster than in any other state, a 394 percent increase from 76,726 to 378,963.28
By the time the union received the Excelsior list again in 2006, as part of the court order, roughly 60 percent of the plant’s workers were Latino.29 By the time of the election, the Latino number, remarkably, would fall again, back to 26 percent.30 High turnover is often used as an excuse for union defeat, or union inaction, but high turnover had little to no effect on the results in these elections. The primarily African-American workforce in the first election did not produce a yes vote, though research indicates that blacks vote for unions.31 According to Buffkin’s congressional testimony, it was the employer’s intent to replace blacks with Latinos with two objectives in mind: to keep the workforce divided through both instigations of racial conflict and overt segregation, and to create an undocumented immigrant workforce that the employer believed they could more easily control.32 While the employer succeeded at driving racial divisions between 1997 and 2005 in the absence of an effective union campaign; a key to the union’s success in 2006 would be first earning legitimacy with each major constituency in the plant, and then bridging the divisions between them, creating unity and solidarity despite the extraordinary efforts by the boss to systematically pit worker against worker.
Gene Bruskin learned early in his tenure as campaign director that the employer’s calculation on the timidity of Latinos was wildly off base. Immigrant rights organizations had declared May 1, 2006 to be a national “strike” day for immigrant workers. A few weeks before May 1, Latino worker leaders approached the union to tell them they planned to participate in the national strike. This would be the first walkout on (p.159) the new staff director’s watch, though the second in three years for the plant. “The workers decided to strike and asked for our help to organize a large march, and we did what they asked,” Bruskin recalled. While this meant union organizers were encouraging the May 1 walkout, there’s no doubt that an earlier wildcat walkout in 2003 by the plant’s Latino cleaners had been on the workers’ own initiative; the union had had no presence at all during the 2003 action.
For May 1, 2006, the union was laying low, waiting for the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling. Even so, the UFCW assembled a meeting with workers, the DJ of the main Latino radio station, Catholic priests in the area, and the local soccer club president, to make a plan. Bruskin set the stage for many subsequent responses to such actions by directing staff to order 5,000 T-shirts that said, “Immigrant rights are worker rights.” They also made a leaflet linking Cesar Chavez to Martin Luther King, Jr., to distribute along the march. On May 1, over 2,500 Latino employees at the Smithfield plant refused work and joined even more immigrant workers in a march that by local standards was the largest people could remember in Tar Heel. They returned to the plant the next day, and the employer, hoping to not alienate them just as the courts were sputtering out their legal orders for a new union election, actually waived employer action against them. By late June, after the NLRB had forced management to post, mail, and discuss their many violations of the law, direct actions by workers inside the plant would pick up where the May 1 action had left off, and slowly escalate for the next 18 months.
As noted above, included in the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling, after the first order of cease-and-desist came the order that the employer offer ten workers illegally fired in the campaigns in the 1990s their jobs back. It also stipulated making the workers “whole,” that is, financially compensating them for loss of wages:
2. Take the following affirmative action necessary to effectuate the policies of the Act.
(a) Within 14 days from the date of this Order, offer Lawanna Johnson, Keith Ludlum, George Simpson, Chris Council, Fred McDonald, Larry Jones, Ray Shawn Ward, Margo McMillan, Tara Davis, and Ada Perry full reinstatement to their former jobs or, if those jobs no longer exist, offer (p.160) them substantially equivalent positions, without prejudice to their seniority and other rights or privileges previously enjoyed.
Of the ten employees named, nine accepted the financial compensation offer and never returned to Smithfield. One worker, Keith Ludlum, wanted his job back.
Ludlum had been fired from the Smithfield plant during the 1994 election, and had been taken out in handcuffs.33 The NLRB ordered that he be reinstated in time for the 1997 election; the company refused.34 His termination and the company’s refusal to follow the first order for reinstatement were rolled into the longer legal battle. Ludlum is white, a North Carolina native, and a Desert Storm veteran who shocked just about everyone, by accepting the offer of his old job in 2006. By then he had a new life and was making good money as a construction contractor—much better money than he would make walking back into nonunion Smithfield. But Ludlum had unfinished business at the plant. As he put it, “They pissed off the wrong motherfucker.” After a pause, he added, “Not sure I should be quoted saying that? But when you escort people out with sheriff’s deputies, in handcuffs, we tend to not accept that real well. They really pissed me off.”35
On his first day back inside the plant, in early July of 2006, Ludlum had a sense of confidence that came with a court order from the U.S. Court of Appeal, D.C. Circuit reinstating him:
When I first went back in, there was no inside campaign, so we started it. The company wasn’t reacting. First I figured out some relationships inside, who was relating to who, then I had to make the company react. I had to scratch their underbelly. I wrote Union Time across my hard hat. I had a mission. They had a mission. The next day, I did it on my raincoat, and they came after me for that. I had to do things so that the other workers could see me winning the battle against them. I had a federal court order and I knew the company had to be careful.
Within weeks, Ludlum began leading direct actions with dozens, and then hundreds, of his coworkers, including a collective sit-down action to demand clean water for the workers inside the plant. From my interviews with him, it was clear his knowledge of labor law, gleaned from (p.161) the first organizing campaign and the subsequent legal fight over his termination, was an incredible asset.
“I remember everything, his hat, his raincoat, I remember it all,” coworker Ollie Hunt says. “I came to work at Smithfield right after Keith was reinstated. I was right there running hogs, stationed right next to Keith.” Ollie Hunt is a Lumbee Indian who grew up in Rowland, North Carolina, about 40 miles from the factory. His father is pure Lumbee; his mother is white. “I grew up in a town with one red light, and as a kid I worked cropping tobacco and picking cucumbers,” he told me. He has two daughters and one son: “My first girl is named Miami Raynie Hunt after my wife, Amy’s, favorite country song; ‘Miami, My Amy.’ The song, by Keith Whitley, was once #14 on the country charts and remains their favorite. Amy, also Lumbee, is a youth development specialist who has gone back to school to become a guidance counselor. Ollie notes, “Where I was from, I never heard of a union.”36
Within days of Keith Ludlum’s return, Ollie, Keith, and a third emerging union leader, Terry Slaughter, all stationed together in the livestock department, began to plot their course to a union victory. Livestock was a key department, because if workers in Livestock stopped letting the hogs off the trucks, not only would it stop the production line, it would also cause a massive traffic blockade on a major interstate highway. The Livestock workers all talked about how easy it would be to block that highway. With 32,000 hogs a day coming in on the trucks, the tactic was guaranteed to work.
Terry Slaughter was the crew shift leader in Livestock, assigning who took which station and where, and generally keeping an eye on the flow of the hogs. This wasn’t a management position, but it did mean he knew a little more about hog flow, workers’ schedules, and more. Slaughter is black, born in North Carolina but raised in New York City. Unions weren’t a foreign concept to Terry, and before moving back to North Carolina he’d gotten to know people in New York’s health-care workers’ union and in city government unions. He’d left New York to try his fortunes someplace more affordable, where he might get a little house.
Slaughter, Hunt, and Ludlum would build an inseparable bond during the campaign. As Ollie said, “Me, Slaughter, and Keith, we had a tight relationship. People would see the white, the black and the Indian, and management knew trouble was coming.” In the Smithfield factory, workers were isolated to an unusual degree, segregated by department, (p.162) room, race, language, and more, with incredibly loud machines running at all times, drowning casual communication. But Livestock workers had to walk the entire length of the plant to get to their jobs. This gave them a second privilege as power workers: They could see people, and talk to them, as they walked into and out of the plant. It took almost 40 minutes for Hunt, Slaughter, and Ludlum to get from the parking lot to their station.37 They would soon turn that already long walk into a saunter, doing union work along the way, work only the worker-leaders themselves could do, since union staff were barred from going anywhere near this factory. More than one hour of face-chat time each day.
Bruskin says that once the leaders established this first small team of worker activists inside the plant, they began to physically map the entire factory, something the union had never attempted in the earlier campaigns. The sheer size of the plant—973,000 square feet, with a maze-like layout—was daunting. Drawing a literal map is step one for workplace organizers, but charting which workers worked where, with whom, when, and who related to whom and why is the most important step, the chart is a hallmark of a good organizing campaign. The peripatetic Livestock workers were key in drawing the map and charting social networks among the workers. They also spent the summer and fall escalating “in-plant” direct actions and beginning to build a statewide community support effort, as well as a national coalition that would soon launch a consumer campaign against Smithfield, all under the banner of Justice@Smithfield, complete with a website, facts about the employer’s track record against its workers, an exhaustive litany of the company’s environmental law violations, CEO profits—just about as good a profile on a company as any ever done in such a campaign. Top-notch research and strategic leverage had been among Bruskin’s areas of expertise coming into the fight, and FAST had already conducted years of in-depth research on every aspect of this company. Workers and their allies were marching at shareholder meetings, creating online petition campaigns, and more. The Justice@Smithfield campaign was generating not just local but also national newspaper headlines. Workers were constantly challenging the company’s authority inside the plant, including sitting down in the plant, backing up the line, blocking the highway, and more.
By the fall of 2006, there were strong pro-union worker committees being built within the plant’s Latino and black departments. Bruskin (p.163) was trying to figure out how to begin to build solidarity between these groups, and this was harder than usual, because management had almost perfected the science of fomenting racial hatred inside the plant. The three weeks Charles LeDuff, the New York Times reporter, spent undercover in the Tar Heel factory led to a searing journalistic indictment of company-inspired hate. LeDuff wrote that the whites and Indians hated the blacks and Mexicans; the Mexicans hated the blacks; the blacks hated the Mexicans; and the boss drove this hate systematically.38 Bruskin decided it was time for a Black-Brown weekend picnic among the groups’ key leaders. People were ready to meet and talk as one factory, to emerge from their departmental ethnic enclaves. And just as the plans for the weekend BBQ were launched, Smithfield launched an “air strike.”
In October, the employer sent several thousand letters to Latino workers, saying that they needed to prove their immigration status by providing Social Security numbers that matched their birth certificates—one of the more common employer tactics today.39 The letters, according to Smithfield, were a response to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials contacting Smithfield and requesting that the employer verify the legal status of the employees on payroll by verifying their Social Security numbers. It’s surely not a likely coincidence that in the middle of a renewed, and clearly more successful, union organizing drive, this employer, known for rogue behavior since the plant opened, took a sudden interest in complying with a law—when the law was one to sow fear in the hearts of more than half the plant’s workforce. By early November, the employer had sent out 550 “no match” letters, informing workers that their Social Security numbers could not be verified from the documents provided. Next, they fired two dozen workers based on charges of bad paperwork. The 550 letters sent a signal that mass firings of Latinos were coming.
On November 17, 2006, more than 1,000 Latinos staged a wildcat strike and walked off the job, temporarily shutting the plant down, again. Bruskin’s deeply rooted values are perhaps best depicted by his response to this action: “I am on the job for seven months, and about to drive down to North Carolina to meet with some workers when I get a call from an organizer freaking out, ‘Gene, they’ve just shut the plant down, the Latinos walked out. What should we do?’ ” Bruskin’s reaction (p.164) to the call underscores the central importance of top staff leadership. He could easily have said, “Get them all back to work as fast as you can,” which was exactly what Bruskin’s supervisor demanded he do, or “Run the other way,” or, worse, “Hold a press conference condemning the workers’ behavior.” Any of these responses would be fairly typical of many unions today. Instead, Bruskin guided by his leftist principles, ordered his staff to get “1,000 bottles of water and 100 pizzas to the workers, fast!”40 It’s still hot in southeastern North Carolina in November.
A handful of non-Latinos had also walked out in solidarity, workers like Ludlum. According to Slaughter, “These firings and then the walkout was a wake-up call to us blacks in the plant. Watching brown people get taken off the line and fired and then others walking out over it sort of shook us, like, Hey, what are we waiting for? What are we doing about the conditions here? It was almost embarrassing how little we were doing.”41 The walkout generated headlines throughout North Carolina, and also in The New York Times, which declared how unusual it was for nonunion employees, let alone employees with documentation issues, to wildcat in the United States.42 As soon as the walkout began, creating a crisis for the employer, Bruskin and the worker leaders decided to dispatch a priest, Father Arce of St. Andrew’s Catholic church, to mediate and negotiate with the employer. Smithfield had refused to meet with union staff or union-identified worker leaders, so the union found a perfect alternate to handle the negotiations: a religious leader who had credibility with the Latinos but was not seen as an associate of the union. In fact, Father Arce was receiving coaching from the Latino members of his parish who were also now union leaders, the workers themselves acting as brokers between the union staff and the Catholic priest.43
The workers’ demands were that everyone who walked out be allowed to return to work the next day with no reprisals, that the company stop firing people, and that the immigrant workers be given more time to prove their status. When Father Arce first came out of the meeting with a “promise” from the employer to meet all demands, the Latino parishioners turned union leaders sent him back inside to get it all in writing. They were schooling the priest that the company was not to be trusted. Bruskin understood at the time the pivotal importance of the fact that for the first time ever the employer was actually negotiating with employees—the fact that it was through a Catholic priest was (p.165) immaterial. The mere act of getting recalcitrant employers to begin to learn to bargain with employees can be an important first step towards later negotiations: The concept has been established.
On the heels of this walkout, Bruskin and key worker-leaders, the very ones who had just met for the Black-Brown BBQ, agreed that they needed a way to get the black employees activated and working together with the Latinos. Their idea was to demand that Martin Luther King Day be an official holiday at the plant, with paid time off for those who requested it and double time for everyone who had to work shifts that day. The union immediately began to produce literature in Spanish and English, with King’s picture on one side, Cesar Chavez’s on the other, describing the common values and the liberation efforts of these two leaders. Additionally, the demand that Smithfield honor Martin Luther King Day was one that union activists could use to rally the broader community to their cause. When the nationally recognized holiday arrived, a majority of workers had signed a petition demanding a paid day off, and the company’s refusal generated press headlines sympathetic to the workers.44
Smithfield then reversed its decision, but did so in a manner that denied the workers’ victory; the company announced a new policy to give all workers in all their facilities nationwide the holiday, effectually denying their decision had anything to do with local worker demands. The workers felt vindicated nonetheless, but their euphoria was short-lived. Two days after the holiday, on January 23, the employer let Immigration and Customs Enforcement into the plant, and the uniformed officials took twenty-one more Latino workers off the lines, in handcuffs, clearly headed for deportation. Anxiety seeped throughout the plant. By the weekend, news that the workers had been shipped to deportation facilities far from North Carolina had spread, along with the fear that any one of hundreds, if not thousands of employees, might be next.
Rather than see people slink away one by one, worker-leaders decided to shut the plant down, again. It was an act of defiance as well as a move to avoid getting dragged off to a for-profit U.S. detention center for eventual deportation. On Sunday, January 28, more than 2,000 Latino employees walked off the first shift, which shut the plant down immediately.45 But this time, the workers had packed up and left for good. There were no parking-lot negotiations between Catholic priests and the employer. “La Migra,” Immigration, was clearly returning soon to (p.166) deport more workers. Whatever trust the employer might have earned with its November decision to allow the workers back into the plant had been permanently destroyed.
There were so many employer-inflicted casualties in this particular class war, the rather stunning fact that 2,000 individuals lost their jobs in a single day because they had wanted a union can almost get buried in the long list of other outrages. That they chose to leave by engaging in a massive wildcat strike that would hurt the boss, if only for several days, speaks to their deep sense of human dignity, and their bravery. By this time, there were almost daily daring actions by workers on the inside and vicious responses from the employer, and the fight was shifting outside, where it would generate more support.
Additional Power Source: The North Carolina Community
The first time I remember getting called from the union was when the ICE had just raided and deported some Smithfield workers. I was driving back from Tennessee that day, where I had just been part of starting a new faith formation called the Word and the World, an effort to bring together the seminary, the sanctuary, and the streets. To make “The Word” more meaningful to the world we live in.46
Reverend Nelson Johnson, Beloved Community Church, Greensboro, N.C.
The pace of the worker campaign inside the plant was overwhelming the union staff, but it was still insufficient to bring the employer to the table. Bruskin sought out national allies to launch a national consumer campaign branding Smithfield Pork as the white meat that came with human blood through human sacrifice. A young North Carolina organizer named Libby Manley had been an intern on the campaign, and Bruskin decided to make her position full-time, assigning her to engage the North Carolina community. Because the UFCW had pulled out of the national AFL-CIO, the AFL-CIO wouldn’t lend them Roz Pellas again, but Pellas was committed to the workers and the campaign, no matter what official fissures appeared at the national level. Back in 1997, Pellas had tapped any and every religious leader she knew in North Carolina. Reverend Nelson Johnson had attended college with Roz Pellas two decades earlier, and they were still friends. Reverend Johnson would emerge as a central player driving North Carolina religious leaders’ response to the workers’ campaign. He understood that framing (p.167) (how to contextualize the fight when discussing it) was going to be key if the workers were to stand a chance, and his earliest objective was to shift the frame of the story as it was unfolding:
First of all, I think community is a framing for all the issues we face, and in this case the leading edge of the issue at Smithfield was labor. By calling this a community struggle, we began to change the frame and break down the structural division and set it up so that if justice is the issue here, than everyone in the community is invited to be a part of the campaign. So labor isn’t an “other,” some “Northern-based” thing, some “anti-Southern” thing; it’s actually people in our own community.47
Reverend Johnson decided that the Smithfield workers’ campaign would be a good North Carolina project for his new program, the Word and the World. He hosted a meeting of religious leaders from around the region and invited a longtime North Carolina farmworker leader, Baldemar Velasquez,48 to come to the meeting to educate the religious leaders about two issues: unions and Latino immigrants. Reverend Johnson’s network was almost exclusively a black preachers’ network. Immigration was so new that people in the region didn’t understand it. Sarita Gupta, the head of Jobs with Justice, the group that would coordinate the national consumer boycott, reflects on this:
It seems hard to believe now, but in 2006, we’d try to talk about the immigrant rights sub-struggle taking place in this union fight, and people would look at us and say, “Huh? Immigrants, in North Carolina, in a factory?” People weren’t quite processing the rapid growth of the immigrant workforce in the U.S. South. And, the union was struggling with how to manage the conversation around immigration. The Smithfield management was as sophisticated as any we’ve seen in pitting people against each other.49
Reverend Johnson understood, as Gupta and Velasquez did, that the Smithfield fight could be a breakthrough in many ways for North Carolina in black-brown relations, in addition to being a potential breakthrough for the national union in the meat-packing industry and also the South. Rev. Johnson made a point of inviting a longtime (p.168) colleague of his to attend the weekend meeting, a little-known pastor from Goldsboro, the Reverend Dr. William Barber. Today, Rev. Barber is regarded as the founder and a key leader of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays movement. Back then, he had just made a successful run for president of the state branch of the NAACP. He beat a do-nothing incumbent who had routinely accepted financial contributions from Smithfield Foods during the horrific period of deportations, firings, and racist company shenanigans.
One of Rev. Barber’s first public acts as president was to refuse a check for $10,000 from Smithfield, informing the company that the NAACP would no longer be complicit in the company’s abuse of their workers’ human rights. He became a key figure supporting the Smithfield workers in their unionization effort and used the campaign against Smithfield to help renew a moribund NAACP chapter. Suddenly the workers had a historic civil rights group with considerable legitimacy in North Carolina helping to lead the charge, in addition to the emerging religious leader’s coalition.
Rev. Johnson, intent on making the Smithfield campaign a North Carolina community fight, proposed that the first action by religious leaders inside the state would be to hold twelve simultaneous pickets at North Carolina’s homegrown and very successful grocery store chain, Harris Teeter.50 He and the team of religious leaders picked these dozen Harris Teeter stores based whether or not they had large numbers of black customers, and on whether they had a willing partner in their religious network, a partner who could bring out sufficient people to lead the protests. Harris Teeter’s current website reflects the image-conscious nature of the grocery store, something the local pastors already understood. The site displays page after page of “famous celebrities” who shop at Harris Teeter stores, including Dick Cheney, Tiger Woods, Tom Brokaw, and Wayne Newton. The picketers declared that Harris Teeter needed to stop selling Smithfield’s products until the company began to treat the community right. The decision to target North Carolina–based Smithfield pork in North Carolina’s home-bred and popular chain grocery with North Carolina preachers calling on the company to treat “the community” with decency was an instant success. Harris Teeter, which had a board dominated by evangelical conservatives, immediately began calling Smithfield to demand they “get these people out from in front of our stores.”
(p.169) According to Bob Geary, a veteran North Carolina journalist who filed more than two dozen stories about Smithfield51 and is currently a columnist at the North Carolina Indy Week, “Nothing made a difference with the union campaigns all those years until they brought the campaign to Raleigh [the state capital]. No one goes to Tar Heel, it’s all by itself, this giant plant in a tiny town. Smithfield had no incentive not to fight. When they [the union] made it statewide, and made it a broad political fight, they won.”52
To Win in Manufacturing in the South, Still More Leverage Is Needed
The workers inside Smithfield were firing on all pistons. The North Carolina community was engaged and upping their involvement in the fight. The company still wasn’t moving. By this time, the union had abandoned any real hope for securing the card check agreement they had set out to win, because the employer had cleverly announced publicly that they were willing to hold a union election. Smithfield bosses understood what is so very difficult for almost anyone who has not been involved in this type of effort to understand: Just because you hold an election, it does not mean it is free or fair. Most liberals, including those in the U.S. mainstream media, readily understand that when a repressive regime somewhere in the world calls for an election to add a fig leaf of legitimacy to its continued rule, the election is in no way free or fair. Yet these same people cannot seem to grasp that an employer like Smithfield, which effectively got rid of 2,000 immigrant workers (pro-union voters)—many of them encouraged by the company to come to the U.S. illegally in the first place—and was systematically driving a race war inside the plant, is not likely to hold a “free and fair” union election. Bruskin discussed how difficult this moment in the campaign was: being suddenly forced to argue against an election. He “lost” some key sympathetic journalists over this issue, including the New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, and decided to all but abandon the card check effort and shift to accepting that there would have to be an election, but with enforceable neutrality of some sort, actual terms in writing, with observers (picture Jimmy Carter), guaranteeing that the company wouldn’t violate the workers’ rights again.
(p.170) Bruskin wanted an all-out national escalation of the union’s campaign. His first request was to the UFCW, which represents the retail workers in some large grocery stores across the country.53 Bruskin thought that if the fifteen biggest UFCW grocery locals across the country began to take action, the company would understand that the fight was leaving the North Carolina border. But there was a problem. The UFCW local unions basically did nothing (a remarkably common challenge most U.S. unions have been unwilling to take on, lest they lose votes for their leadership at future conventions). A few tried to help; most took no action at all, no matter what the request. According to Bruskin, “I just wanted the heads of the fifteen biggest locals to write a Dear Grocery Store letter to the grocery store owners saying, ‘We want to talk about this one product,’ but the retail locals were weak, always trying to make nice with the employer, and they were siloed internally from the meatpacking division. So we gave up.” Bruskin decided to turn to Jobs with Justice (JwJ) to lead the field mobilization of the national escalation.
Sarita Gupta, JwJ’s executive director, said that it was in part Gene Bruskin’s style, in addition to Joe Hansen’s arrival at the helm of the UFCW, that allowed local North Carolina leaders and groups like hers to take ownership of the effort together: “The campaign was really different in the sense that the union actually turned entire pieces over to allies, invited us to the table, and challenged us to get it done.”54 After the Taft-Hartley Act was passed in 1947, unions in the United States were barred from calling boycotts or secondary boycotts (one of so many examples of how fundamentally anti-democratic the workplace is under United States laws). But community groups, religious organizations, and other nonunion groups are able as consumers to call for consumer boycotts. [Note to unions: workers are also community members, religious, and consumers—see Chapter Two on the vastness of the potential army.] One of the most effective tactics that Jobs with Justice deployed in the national consumer strategy was its campaign targeting Food Network celebrity chef Paula Deen. Deen, wildly popular at the time, written up in The New York Times and elsewhere for her butter-heavy Southern cooking, had been hired by Smithfield to promote its products. The effort to get Paula Deen to drop Smithfield’s (p.171) products and sponsorship unfolded. It was the kind of opportunity creative activists look for.
Deen was on a national tour promoting a brand-new cookbook. Jobs with Justice tracked Deen’s schedule of public appearances and began mobilizing their activist network in the places where they had enough strength for folks to picket and handbill Paula Deen. According to a Jobs With Justice internal report and evaluation of the Smithfield campaign, the JwJ coalitions publicly confronted Paula Deen at events in Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; Louisville, Kentucky; and Chicago. The group also intervened in numerous Deen radio interviews by having community allies call in and ask specific questions about the situation with Smithfield workers at the Tar Heel plant, including, most notably, during the Diane Rehm show on NPR.55 When Deen came to promote Smithfield products in Chicago, the city where Oprah Winfrey produced her show, more than 200 union sympathizers turned out to protest, generating a good headline for the campaign in the Chicago Tribune. The header, “Deen Appearance Has Lots to Chew On,” was followed by these opening lines:
If Paula Deen were everybody’s grandma, every meal would hit the spot, puppies would get along with kittens, and there’d be peace in the world. The genial face of Southern cooking on television’s Food Network, Deen conveys a country-fried charm that seems to solve our ills with a slice of peach cobbler, although that probably wouldn’t have worked with the band of union protesters who dogged her Chicago appearance.56
That headline would persist, and the bird-dogging the protesters engaged in at an event for Deen that drew 3,000 fans, according to the article, wouldn’t end in Chicago. According to the Deen public appearances website, the union knew she was headed for Oprah Winfrey’s television show. As Bruskin described it:
We had Leila McDowell, an experienced communication strategist with a social justice perspective, she’s this really smart and radical Black communications consultant; she was so radical I couldn’t get the union to hire her, and, she was incredible. So she takes the (p.172) headlines we got from the Chicago Tribune, with 200 people protesting Paula Deen, and starts faxing it to Oprah Winfrey’s people till finally she gets someone on the phone. She says, basically, “Hey, I want to tip you off, I don’t want Oprah to get in any trouble, but if Paula Deen comes on and promotes Smithfield hams, Oprah’s wading into the biggest labor fight in the country, and we all want Oprah to help Obama win, not get caught up in this big labor fight.”
Though the union wanted Deen’s appearance canceled, the compromise was that the Oprah Winfrey Show forbade Deen from saying the word “Smithfield,” and they prevented her from using Smithfield products. The reason Smithfield was underwriting Deen was for her to use her biggest public appearances to promote their hams. There was nothing bigger than the Oprah Winfrey Show using its clout to shut down the Smithfield’s promotion. According to legal documents, the company had preordered 10,000 special hams for the show, none of which were sold. In fact, these same legal documents identified this one event as crucial to their exaggerated claim that the “union effort” was costing them $900 million.57
The RICO Suit and the Election Procedure Accord
The union had endured and managed a nine-year legal fight that had finally culminated in 2006. But the company found yet another way to attempt to use the law to destroy the workers legally. On November 27, 2007, eighteen months after the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the company to cease and desist on more than an alphabet’s worth of listed illegal behavior, ten months after a third ICE immigration raid that led over 2,000 Latino workers to stage a wildcat strike and shut the plant down as they quit en masse in a defiant action,58 Smithfield filed a racketeering lawsuit against the union and the union’s allies, opening up yet another new legal front on which to defeat the workers. Smithfield had found an unusual angle, deploying a set of laws originally devised to prosecute organized crime and the Mafia: the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. The company asserted that the national consumer boycott of their products amounted to “economic warfare.”59 Smithfield further alleged that the union had mounted this (p.173) war in an attempt to “extort” from the company a card check and neutrality agreement. With the help of discovery and subpoenas, the union deduced that the plan had been hatched by Richard Berman of the website The Center for Union Facts, which later became a leading proponent of the effort, begun in 2013, to legally label worker centers and other community-based organizations essentially as “unions.” Bruskin reports:
Smithfield hired the person that drafted the original [RICO] law in the 1970s as their consultant.60 They spent, according to them, $25 million on legal work against us. In one year, from when they filed the RICO suit until when we settled, there were over one million pages of materials subpoenaed from us; we had to take our hard drives from our desktop computers and our laptops and hand them over. Berman described the tactic in a memo as “the nuclear option.” In one year, which was being expedited by the judge, all the depositions, pre-trial motions all happened. The case was ridiculous, but every time we tried to get the suit dismissed, the judge let the company continue.61
The contrast between the pace of activity (warp speed) of Smithfield’s legal team on the RICO suit and that of their team on the nine-year NLRB suit is like the contrast between a modern race car at Indy and a horse and buggy in the rain. The RICO judge drove a fierce timeline for Smithfield, an unusually short timeline for cases on the scale of the RICO allegations. The RICO suit made many claims, an example of which was the company’s allegation that the union had been particularly effective in the Paula Deen campaign. Smithfield said the union had “deprived Smithfield of an incomparable marketing opportunity” when it convinced the Oprah Winfrey Show to refuse to allow Paula Deen to “promote Smithfield’s products before millions of viewers.”62
Because RICO suits were designed to shut down individual family members involved in organized crime, and their organizations, RICO suits name and sue individuals, not just organizations. The Smithfield suit was filed against the key people and groups the company decided were the linchpins in the effort, including UFCW, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union; CTW, Change to Win Federation, at that (p.174) time a new rival to the AFL-CIO; Research Associates of America, the 501(c)(3) organization that was formed after CTW split from the AFL-CIO to house the research team; FAST, the Food And Allied Service Trades, Bruskin’s employer; Jobs with Justice; Gene Bruskin; Joseph Hansen; William T. McDonough; Leila P. McDowell; Patrick J. O’Neill; Andrew L. Stern; and Tom Woodruff, the organizing director at CTW and at SEIU.
The suit had an instant chilling impact on the campaign. The high-level players inside the UFCW who were uncomfortable with the intense and militant workers’ activism on the inside of the plant used the RICO suit as an excuse to damp down direct actions in the plant. The more traditional thinkers inside the UFCW used the RICO suit to attack Bruskin’s strategy at every level. Tensions were rife. Bruskin, the workers, and their allies wanted to ramp up action in response; the old-guard types wanted to pull field resources and shift them to nonworker leverage strategies. Concurrently, the individuals named in the RICO suit were all coming to terms with the reality of significant personal liability if they lost the case, as the purpose of RICO is, in part, to bankrupt corrupt individuals. Bruskin pushed hard against the effort to shut the campaign down, arguing they clearly had the company feeling desperate. These decisions about pedal-to-the-metal versus full-brake aren’t uncommon in big union campaigns, and in this case, the strategy to fight on and uptick the pressure was being driven by an avowed leftist, as the old guard in the union took a position of surrender.
Complicating matters more, a new generation of unionists born at Change to Win but schooled originally in Andy Stern’s SEIU63 took a position somewhere in the middle: continue the corporate campaign but shut down worker organizing and shut down the community campaign in North Carolina. This reflected their view, discussed in Chapter Two, that campaigns can be won without workers, and that workers (and in this case also the workers’ community) might just get in the way. Bruskin had an absolutely different philosophy and sense of strategy, namely that the campaign was only winning because of the high levels of worker agency. He further maintained that any union win without worker agency in the right-to-work South—where dues are voluntary and employer behavior is closer to the year 1815 than 2015—would soon (p.175) collapse from a lack of battle-tested worker leadership. Now Bruskin’s early individual negotiations about the terms under which he would accept his campaign position—that the union wouldn’t control him and couldn’t fire him—were paying off. But his opponents inside the union were succeeding at pulling back some financial resources, and his daily battle became not just fighting Smithfield, but also fighting people inside the union.
For the next half-year, there was internal dissension over strategy and months of time lost, once again, to subpoenas and evidence gathering. The “heat” in the campaign was being ratcheted down, against Bruskin’s better instincts, but it wasn’t being closed down. During this time the campaign managed to pull off a big “inside-outside” action day at the Smithfield Foods annual shareholder meeting: workers protesting on the inside, ministers and community supporters from across the country demonstrating on the outside.64 On the eve of the start of the RICO trial, in an all-night negotiation that ended thirty minutes before the courthouse opened its doors, the union and the company reached an agreement to hold a union election with prenegotiated rules, the most important of which would be the union’s right to have access to the inside of the plant, and the naming of a “monitor” with strong enforcement mechanisms whose job was to be at the plant during the election cycle to referee the period leading up to the vote. Each side agreed to cease certain activities; for example, the employer dropped the RICO case and agreed to take down an anti-union website it had created, Smithfieldfacts.com; and the union surrendered the words “Justice@Smithfield” and along with them suspended the national consumer campaign. The deal on the courthouse steps was signed and “ordered” as a settlement by the RICO judge on October 27, 2008. The nation’s presidential election was eight days away. The election in the plant was set for the week of December 8.
By the time of the court steps settlement, the tea leaves, including all polls, were showing a Democratic presidential victory. Big, vertically integrated multinational companies, often with a history of supporting Republicans, sometimes find unions helpful when Democratic administrations take office, using them as conduits to the administration on key issues.65 For the once-again-majority black workforce in the plant, the fact that on November 4 a black man became the first Democrat in (p.176) 36 years to win the popular vote in North Carolina was a huge validation: It showed that black people in North Carolina really could overcome stiff odds and a plantation culture. After the presidential election, one worker wore this hand-printed T-shirt: “If we can change the White House we can change the hog house.”66 The union ramped up that “against all odds” message between the nation’s election day and their own. And on December 10—incidentally the United Nations’ annual International Human Rights Day—the workers voted “yes” to unionize the plant, 2,041 to 1,879.67 Obama barely won North Carolina, and made history. The Smithfield workers barely won their election, and made history, too, one month later. Their win represented the single largest private sector unionization effort of the new millennium.
Struggle Builds Resiliency and Leadership In and Outside the Factory
It’s been a busy year in the hog market. Pork prices way up, bacon seems to be everywhere, ice cream, milkshakes, even Las Vegas martinis.
Kai Ryssdal on NPR’s Marketplace, December 26, 2013
According to UFCW national executive vice president Pat O’Neill, the most important long-term development from the Smithfield campaign is that today in Tar Heel there is a local union that is already helping nonunion workers in a nearby poultry plant to form their own union in Bladen County. “What’s important is that we have a local union that’s actually organizing unorganized workers,” he says.68 At least equally important is the internal organizing work spearheaded by that local union, a program that has achieved a steady membership of 80 percent in this right-to-work state. And, they’ve done it because, in the words of the once-fired-worker Keith Ludlum:
We’ve created an organizing culture. I meet every single new [employee] hire at the orientation and talk about the struggle to win the wages, benefits, and rights we’ve won. I tell every worker that the first thing the boss knows going into our contract negotiations is what percentage of workers are in the union—anything less than 80 percent and the employer won’t be taking our concerns very seriously. Keeping our internal membership high isn’t just my job, it’s (p.177) everyone’s job here, just like helping the workers down the street at the Mountainaire poultry plant, where 2,000 workers work under horrible conditions. The first thing those workers say when we talk to them is, “We want the Smithfield contract.”69
By defeating the company, the Smithfield workers achieved much more than a contract. They won confidence in themselves—including the confidence to go down the street to a chicken factory to help teach 2,000 unorganized workers exactly what they need to do to beat their employer. Through the vicious fight inside the pork plant, the workers learned also to take on controversial right-wing wedge issues like immigration and even gay marriage. These 5,000 workers are now key to the effort to help change the political conversation among thousands of workers in rural North Carolina. Reverends Barber and Johnson both note with home-state pride that the Smithfield workers are regular and consistent participants in the protest movement he founded in 2014, Moral Mondays. Barber believes the fight at Smithfield helped lay the groundwork for North Carolina’s newly elevated consciousness about the urgent need for unions:
We learned to trust each other during the Smithfield fight; we deepened our ties considerably, like when we held simultaneous actions in twelve cities in North Carolina all at once, something that could only happen because the leadership of the union campaign at the time trusted the NAACP and Black Church network to lead the effort. The union had no capacity on its own to do anything like that without us.70
Sarita Gupta of Jobs with Justice says,
The Smithfield campaign was our campaign as much as the UFCW’s, the NAACP’s, and the North Carolina religious community’s. JwJ felt that way—that campaign was really our victory in a deep way, in a deep-heart way that you don’t always feel on campaigns. Gene Bruskin was really smart in creating and structuring the fight in such a way that groups could feel ownership and get credit for the work we were doing. It felt like a real joint campaign, and that often doesn’t happen.71
(p.178) Ollie Hunt became a full-time staff organizer in the new local union and subsequently began helping the Mountaire poultry workers form their organization. Hunt says, “I know people, cousins, who work at Walmart distribution centers, and I am telling them all about it. My parents wanted me to go to college, I want my kids to go to college, too. But what if they don’t? If you’ve got kids, you expect the best for them, but things don’t always work out the way we think. The workers in the poultry plant, who could be my kids in the future, they drive two hours a day to earn $250 per week with no health insurance, and the company is building a $5 million expansion in their plant.” Delcia Rodriguez from the Dominican Republic, a former worker at Mountaire, was fired by her employer when she had an industrial accident that caused her to miscarry. Now 23, she’s been hired by the local union to help her former colleagues. She reports that everyone in the poultry plant is scared, but they all want “what Smithfield workers got.”
The workers at Smithfield won $15 an hour, in rural North Carolina the equivalent of a $26.40 wage in Seattle; Seattle’s low-wage nonunion workers, who won $15, got far less. The Smithfield workers also developed a worker-led unified movement among previously warring ethnic factions. They’ve become a base of workers in a key national electoral swing state that still has the lowest unionization level in the United States, and they are taking on political wedge issues not as outsiders, but as home-grown North Carolinians, and they are helping their next-door neighbors form a new union of their own.
That almost no workers elsewhere in the U.S. South know this story is a travesty.
(1.) Rev. Dr. William Barber, author interview, May 2014.
(3.) Until September 2014, when customer service agents at American Airlines voted to unionize, the Smithfield win was the largest in decades. For the American story, see Jad Mouawad, “After American Airlines-US Airways Merger, Agents Vote to Unionize,” The New York Times, September 16, 2014.
(4.) Bureau of Labor Statistics January 2014 news release of the most recent numbers of the 2013 Current Population Survey.
(5.) Author’s email consultation with economist Dean Baker, who crunched the math for this article (email dated May 27, from Dean Baker).
(6.) Bob Herbert, “Where the Hogs Come First,” The New York Times, June 15, 2006.
(7.) Louis Compa, “Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants,” http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/01/24/blood-sweat-and-fear, January 25, 2006 (retrieved June 7, 2014).
(8.) Website searches conducted June 2014, United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The other three unions that merged with the PWOC to form the modern union were the Barbers, Beauticians and Allied Industries International Association; Boot and Shoe Workers Union; and the Retail Clerks International Union.
(9.) Judith Stepan-Norris and Maurice Zeitlin, Left Out: Reds and America’s Industrial Unions, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
(10.) Saul Alinsky, “Community Analysis and Organization,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 46, No. 6 (May 1941), 797–808.
(11.) Upton Sinclair, The Jungle: The Uncensored Version, Amherst, Mass.: Seven Treasures Publications, 2011.
(12.) The National Labor Relations Board, “Decision and Order, The Smithfield Packing Company, Inc., Tar Heel Division, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 204, AFL-CIO, CLC, December 16, 2004.” In author’s possession.
(13.) Roz Pellas, author interview, May 2014.
(14.) Vote tallies from “Key Dates in Fight to Unionize Smithfield Plant,” Associated Press Financial Wire, December 5, 2008, via LEXIS.
(15.) Author Interview, April 2013.
(16.) This aspect, Smithfield actually encouraging illegal migration over the border, is covered extensively in David Bacon’s The Right to Stay Home: How U.S. Policy Drives Immigration, Boston: Beacon Press, September 2014. The author profiles and documents migrant Mexican hog farmers who lost their livelihoods when Smithfield relocated workers from Mexico to North Carolina.
(18.) FAST is a semiautonomous department within the AFL-CIO, a vestige of the merger between the CIO and the AFL in the 1950s. It was established by the constitution of the AFL-CIO, and represented the ten unions in food-related industries. Its two top directors, Jeff Fiedler and Gene Bruskin, were elected constitutional officers of the AFL-CIO.
(19.) Julius Getman, Restoring the Power of Unions, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.
(20.) Kate Bronfenbrenner has written extensively about comprehensive campaigns. She describes the difference between a strategic campaign and a comprehensive campaign as one of worker agency. In her analysis, a comprehensive campaign involves workers at all steps, whereas in a strategic campaign, the air war and the ground war are waged separately.
(21.) Gene Bruskin, author interview, June 2014.
(22.) He stayed at FAST, was in charge of its payroll, and on loan to UFCW directly. UFCW paid FAST the salary that FAST paid Bruskin. Technically, FAST at that time had become Research Associates of America, because of the Change to Win breakaway from the AFL-CIO, which ruptured both money flows. The AFL-CIO refused to allow breakaway unions to work with FAST, since it was an AFL-CIO constitutional body.
(24.) Keith Ludlum, author interview, May 2014.
(25.) United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, Case No 05-1004; argued March 9, 2006; decided May 5, 2006. In author’s possession.
(26.) Sherri Buffkin, former manager, Smithfield Packing Company, Tar Heel, North Carolina; U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, June 20, 2002.
(27.) Charlie LeDuff, “At a Slaughterhouse, Some Things Never Die,” The New York Times, June 16, 2000.
(28.) Jerry Kammer, “Immigration Raids at Smithfield: How an ICE Enforcement Action Boosted Union Organizing and the Hiring of Americans,” The Center for Immigration Studies, Washington, D.C., July 2009; http://cis.org/SmithfieldImmigrationRaid-Unionization.
(29.) Author interviews with workers and organizers, all of whom confirmed these percentages, May 2014.
(30.) John Ramsey and Sarah A. Reid, “Race and the Union,” Fayetteville Observer, December 2, 2008; Kristin Collins, “Raids Aided Union in Tar Heel Plant,” Raleigh News and Observer, January 1, 2009.
(31.) Kate Bronfenbrenner on the PBS NewsHour, February 26, 2014. Transcription available at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/unions-offer-american-workers-today/.
(33.) From the NLRB’s investigation into Ludlum’s firing: “Respondent’s former employee Keith Ludlum testified that on January 26, 1994, he was in the locker room on break getting employee Steve Ray to fill out a union authorization card; that Ray asked him if he could get fired or harassed for filling out the card and he told Ray that he was protected by National Labor laws; that Supervisor Tony Murchinson walked into the locker room while Ray was filling out the card; that Murchinson said to Ray, ‘[H]ey I wouldn’t do that. You will get fired’; that he [Ludlum] told Murchinson that he just violated the Labor laws and it was illegal for him to say what he just said; that Murchinson told him that he could not do it on company time and he told Murchinson that he and the employee were on break; that Murchinson told him that he could not do it on company property and he told Murchinson that he could as long as they were on break; and that Ray then tried to give him the card back.”
Later, in the same NLRB investigation report:
“Respondent’s former employee Keith Ludlum testified that on February 2, 1994, while he was handbilling employees with union representatives at the front of the plant, he saw Danny Priest, who is in charge of security at the plant, and Kevin Peak; that they were parked on the grass about 15 to 20 feet away from the handbillers; and that whenever someone in a vehicle accepted a handbill he saw Peak looking at the back of the car, saying something and Priest appeared to be writing something. On cross-examination Ludlum testified that Priest and Peak stayed there for about 30 to 45 minutes; that he could not see what Priest was writing on; that he saw a pen in Priest’s hand; and that he had seen them parked out there before.”
(34.) One indication, of many, that the company did not intend to honor its promise to follow the 1997 order was that it refused to put illegally fired workers back in the plant. That the union missed these clues underscores its incompetence at the time.
(35.) NLRB report, ibid.
(36.) Ollie Hunt, author interview, May 2014.
(37.) Ironically, the length of time it took workers to get to work, and to where the employer stationed the time clock, would become an issue in the first contract negotiations. The Livestock workers won the right to a parking lot in the back, and saved over one hour each day of walking the plant in unpaid status. These same workers now have the legal right to walk through their own factory anytime, often in paid status, to conduct union building efforts post–contract settlement.
(39.) Kate Bronfenbrenner, “No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing,” Briefing Paper No. 235 (electronic version), Washington D.C. Economic Policy Institute, May 20, 2009.
(40.) Gene Bruskin, author interview, May 2014.
(41.) Terry Slaughter, author interview, May 2014.
(42.) Steven Greenhouse, “Hundreds, All Non Union, Walk Out at Pork Plant,” The New York Times, November 17, 2006; Al Greenwood, “Smithfield Workers Return,” Fayetteville Observer, November 19, 2006.
(44.) The following year, with the threat of actions once again and the percentage of African-American workers having grown, Smithfield Foods granted workers in all nonunion Smithfield Foods plants a paid Martin Luther King holiday.
(45.) Kevin Maurer, “Latinos Walk off the Job,” Fayetteville Observer, January 28, 2007.
(46.) Rev. Nelson Johnson, author interview, May 2014.
(48.) Baldemar Velasquez founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit mutual aid and community organization called the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. The FLOC represented the only real organizing among Latinos in North Carolina, starting mostly as a migrant workers’ organization, because when it was founded, almost none of the workers were immigrants. Rather, they were migrants, moving in for the harvest season and back out again.
(49.) Sarita Gupta, author interview, May 2014.
(52.) Bob Geary, author interview, May 2014.
(54.) Sarita Gupta, author interview, May 2014.
(55.) “Jobs with Justice Support for the Justice@Smithfield Campaign, a Case Study,” an undated internal six-page report evaluating Jobs with Justice’s role and effectiveness in the campaign. Paula Deen information is from page 5 of this report. In author’s possession.
(56.) Kevin Pang, “Deen Appearance Has Lots to Chew On,” Chicago Tribune, November 19, 2007.
(57.) Memorandum in Support of Defendants Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12 (b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., Civil Action #3:07CV641, Smithfield Foods Inc., and Smithfield Packing (Plaintiffs) v. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). In author’s possession.
(58.) Steven Greenhouse, “Crackdown Upends Slaughterhouse’s Work Force,” The New York Times, October 12, 2007.
(59.) Kristin Collins, “Smithfield Suit Targets Union,” The Charlotte Observer, November 28, 2007.
(61.) In many ways, this fishing expedition by Berman can be seen as his examination of exactly how community groups and allies were supporting unions, and how the corporate campaigns were being run.
(62.) http://www.shopfloor.org/wp-content/uploads/smithfieldopinion5302.pdf (retrieved June 9, 2014).
(63.) Several top staff at UFCW and Change to Win had all recently left SEIU.
(64.) The Interfaith Campaign for Worker Justice in Chicago helped with this action, too.
(65.) Laura Barron-Lopez, “Union Threatens Retribution for House Dems Opposed to Keystone,” The Hill, April 11, 2014.
(66.) Gene Bruskin, author interview, February 2014.
(67.) Steven Greenhouse, “After 15 Years, North Carolina Plant Unionizes,” The New York Times, December 13, 2008.
(68.) Patrick O’Neil, author interview, May, 2014.
(69.) Keith Ludlum, author interview, May 2014.
(70.) Rev. Dr. William Barber, author interview, May 2014.
(71.) Sarita Gupta, author interview, May 2014.