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NLRB Decision Falls Short of Victory For Workers
Federal agency recognizes employer’s egregious violations

January 13, 2005

Kimberly Freeman
202-822-2127, ext. 111
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WASHINGTON, DC—Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced its decision finding Smithfield Packing Company guilty of illegally assaulting, intimidating and harassing its workers in Tar Heel, NC, when they attempted to form a union in 1994 and 1997. The NLRB called for a new election, but declined to retain the special protections for workers that were ordered by an administrative law judge (ALJ) in 2000.

“The system is broken when it takes over ten years for a decision that only does half the job,” says David Bonior, Chair of American Rights at Work, a workers’ rights advocacy organization. “We applaud both the courageous workers and the NLRB for acknowledging the intense retaliation from Smithfield.  But the ruling fails to protect these workers from the same violence and opposition they experienced the last time they attempted to exercise their rights.  Workers are back to square one.”

Because of the egregious labor law violations committed by Smithfield, the ALJ ruled to give union representatives access to the meatpacking plant to ensure that the company would not continue to violate the law.  In addition, the judge ordered that the new election be held on neutral premises because of “the physical violence and objectionable activity caused by Smithfield during the previous elections at the plant.” 

The NLRB denied union access and left the decision on the neutral voting site to an NLRB Regional Director.   “Without more protection, Smithfield workers who want to try again to form a union could face similar consequences,” says Bonior.

Last July, the NLRB General Counsel issued more charges against the company for assaulting, harassing and intimidating janitors employed by a Smithfield contractor at the Tar Heel plant.  Additionally, the company still maintains its own police force on the premises. Smithfield security officers were involved in the assault of workers during the last election.  

American Rights at Work strives to inform the public about the NLRB, the federal agency that makes critical decisions affecting workers' lives and freedoms. Through its monthly website feature, "Workers' Rights Watch: Eye on the NLRB," American Rights at Work monitors and publicizes the insufficiency of U.S. labor law to ensure employees the freedom to exercise their legal rights to organize.