Hogs, Pigs, Guns

An AP Story on the Technical Corrections bill in the NC State House has this little nugget:

There are some nontechnical changes. One provision would allow company police officers authorized by the state to make arrests to carry concealed weapons without receiving a permit. There is no opposition to the change, Hackney said.

This seemingly innocuous provision is a union-busting gift to the hog industry.

According to the NC Council of Churches the Smithfield Company Police have wide powers to arrest and intimidate workers. This provision would give them the ability to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union have urged Smithfield to disband its police force. This provision of the Technical Corrections bill would only strenghten such company police. Smithfield workers have been trying to organize for years.

Why Joe Hackney thinks no-one is opposed to this measure is beyond me.

Comments

nice nugget catch greg.

...

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

Hogwash

Smithfield has claimed it wants a union vote but apparently not before they get their weapons ready.

Smithfield PAC money gets results

Looks like over $50,000 has been spread around by Smithfield with about $14,000 going to Mike Easley

The following are contributions made by the Smithfield PAC in 2004 and 2006 election cycles
11/13/03 $2,000 Charlie Albertson
05/11/04 $100 Lucy Allen
00/00/06 $200 Lucy Allen
04/16/04 $500 Patrick Ballantine
01/21/05 $1,000 Marc Basnight
12/29/05 $1,000 Marc Basnight
09/05/03 $2,000 Cherie Berry
10/26/04 $1,000 Cherie Berry
02/11/04 $1,000 Jim Black
10/12/04 $1,000 Jim Black
00/00/05 $1,000 Jim Black
12/29/05 $500 Julia Boseman
10/15/04 $250 Ralph Campbell
05/05/04 $2,000 Britt Cobb
10/20/04 $1,000 Britt Cobb
03/20/06 $200 Linda Coleman
05/07/04 $2,000 Roy Cooper
10/20/04 $2,000 Roy Cooper
11/21/06 $2,000 Roy Cooper
09/22/04 $4,000 Mike Easley
03/20/06 $200 Jean Farmer-Butterfield
04/29/04 $500 Pryor Gibson
03/20/06 $500 Pryor Gibson
01/21/05 $500 Pryor Gibson
00/00/06 $250 Joe Hackney
04/29/04 $500 Cecil Hargett
04/29/04 $150 Jim Harrell
04/29/04 $250 Dewey Hill
10/07/04 $500 John Kerr
11/06/03 $1,000 Stephen Laroque
09/28/04 $1,000 Richard Morgan
04/01/04 $1,000 Richard Morgan
05/07/04 $100 Don Munford
04/29/04 $100 Bill Owens
04/13/04 $2,000 Beverly Perdue
10/26/04 $1,000 Beverly Perdue
04/08/04 $1,000 A B Swindell
11/01/04 $2,000 Steve Troxler
02/06/06 $250 Russell Tucker
04/29/04 $100 William Wainwright
09/07/04 $150 William Wainwright
04/29/04 $150 Edith Warren
05/09/04 $500 Woody White
00/00/06 $200 Arthur Williams
04/29/04 $150 Keith P Williams
00/00/06 $250 Thomas Wright
01/21/05 $500 Committee to Elect Republican Women
05/02/05 $500 NC House Democratic Committee
01/21/05 $500 NC Republican House Committee

The following are contributions by Smithfield employees in the 2004 election cycle
04/19/04 $250 Charlie Albertson
10/20/04 $1,000 Roy Cooper
02/13/04 $350 Elaine Marshall
04/21/04 $500 Russell Tucker
10/28/04 $250 Mike Easley
11/02/04 $500 Mike Easley
10/29/04 $1,000 Mike Easley
10/28/04 $500 Mike Easley
10/28/04 $500 Mike Easley
10/28/04 $500 Mike Easley
10/28/04 $250 Mike Easley
10/29/04 $2,000 Mike Easley
10/28/04 $500 Mike Easley
10/29/04 $2,000 Mike Easley
10/28/04 $500 Mike Easley
10/28/04 $500 Mike Easley
10/28/04 $250 Mike Easley
10/28/04 $300 Mike Easley
10/28/04 $250 Mike Easley

Smithfield, Black, Latino

Just this Monday the Washington Post had an article about Smithfield.

Union Tries to Unite Blacks, Latinos
Workers at Meatpacking Plant Must First Overcome Distrust
By Darryl Fears, Washington Post Staff Writer

The labor relations board and courts saw Smithfield differently. They agreed with union organizers and workers who said the company fought to undermine union elections in 1994 and 1997, intimidated workers who were pro-union, pitted black and Latino employees against each other, had union organizers arrested by an in-house police squad and threatened to close the plant.

An administrative law judge ordered the company to comply with federal labor laws. After the company appealed, the ruling was upheld by a panel of federal judges. Now, without admitting to wrongdoing, the company sent a letter to United Food and Commercial Workers saying the company is now open to elections.

"We are anxious to let our employees make the decision," said Pittman, who is spearheading a campaign to polish Smithfield's image.

But Gene Buskin, the union's campaign director for Smithfield, said the marketing plan is a trick that feels like deja vu.

After the 1994 election, "they said they had changed and invited us to hold the '97 election," he said. "What followed were 150 unfair labor violations, according to the NLRB, and 10 more years of intimidating workers."

Has anyone written to Joe Hackney

and asked him what he bases this opinion on? Looking at his website, he seems to be a fair man....

He is a good man.

I just emailed him and asked him to stop by, we'll see.

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

Joe Hackney

They do have such an enormous amount of text to go through that it is hard to remain aware of the repercussions of every one-liner.

This one just jumped out at me and I would have expected someone like Joe Hackney to flag it for open discussion.

Technically incorrect

This measure is located in Senate Bill 1523 2006 Technical Corrections Act

It was not in the Senate version but was inserted by the House yesterday:

House Committee Substitute Favorable 7/25/06

This is not a technical correction. This is the same old pay-to-play sneaky lawmaking without full debate.

Armed Twisting

From the UFCW site on Smithfield's sterling record:

In January 2005, the internationally recognized Human Rights Watch issued a report that documents many of Smithfield's human rights abuses. This report, titled "Blood Sweat, and Fear: Workers Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants," highlights the community's outrage. The report documents how Smithfield workers are being threatened and even fired for defending their civil rights on the job.

While Smithfield's anti-worker practices have not changed, the face of the workforce has. Eight years ago, the plant was majority African-American. Current estimates place the workforce at about 55% Latino, while African-American workers now make up 30-35%; the remainder is split fairly evenly between White and Native American workers.

and their private police force:

Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel is the only meatpacking plant in the United States to have its own private police force. Under a somewhat obscure North Carolina state law, Smithfield has created a company police force that patrols the plant, carries concealed weapons on and off duty, and has the power to arrest workers and detain them in an on-site jail cell.

Since its founding in 2000, Smithfield Company Police have arrested at least 90 workers and charged them with a variety of crimes. Ultimately, many of the charges have been dropped by the Bladen County Court—although arrested employees are forced to hire attorneys and pay court costs.10

The Chief of Smithfield Police is Danny Priest—previously the head of security—who was found guilty of violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 for arresting and beating union activists after the 1997 election at Smithfield. Other company cops were also involved in the violence following the 1997 election, and some are still Bladen County Sheriff Deputies.

One of these company cops was recently arrested and charged with using a Smithfield-issued handgun while off-duty to shoot a 20-year old man. The victim of this shooting has sued Smithfield, alleging that the company was negligent in issuing a handgun to this cop, who had shot and killed a crime suspect a few years prior to this incident while working as a public police officer. Smithfield "should have known of the aggressive and dangerous propensity" of this cop, and did not maintain proper control over the guns issued to these cops.11

Due to the presence of the company cops in the plant, employees work under the constant threat of intimidation. In November 2003, a majority of the employees of Smithfield's sanitation subcontractor QSI, Inc., protested their working conditions by walking off the job. An administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board found that Smithfield Company Police and QSI managers physically assaulted workers and caused one worker to be falsely arrested in retaliation for their activity.

In my fight against red-light cameras, I emphasized the problems of ceding law enforcement powers to a private entity. In that case, the powers were used to extort monies - in Smithfields?

In its report issued in January 2005, Human Rights Watch found that the actions of the Smithfield Company Police represent the "conflict of interest that can arise when company employees can exercise state police powers while responding to the employer's directives and interests." HRW continues by pointing out that these problems can be worse if the police have not been properly trained or supervised in the technicalities of labor law and the rights of workers to organize.12

An examination of the company's actions since the 1997 election shows that those were not isolated events. There appears to be a developing pattern of using violence and intimidation to interfere with workers' concerted attempts to exercise their civil rights.

The Human Rights Watch report [PDF].

The NC Council of Churches further notes:

With the county no longer offering its assistance, Smithfield created the private force to do its dirty work. Since its formation, the Smithfield Company Police have arrested nearly ninety people. In 2003 workers at QSI Inc., a subcontractor that does sanitation in the plant, walked off their jobs in an attempt to improve working conditions. The police assaulted these workers, even falsely arresting one of them. QSI, Inc., NLRB (2005). In 2004, two union supporters were arrested, paraded through the plant in handcuffs, detained for 7 hours (without being allowed to make a phone call, even to make sure that their children were safe), and falsely charged with arson. The charges were later dropped by the Bladen County prosecutor because there was no evidence of any wrongdoing. Most importantly, these acts of intimidation are violating the civil rights of over 5,000 people and effectively denying them the ability to exercise rights guaranteed to them as workers in the United States and the state of North Carolina.

Whether Keystone Kops or modern day Pinkertons, some of Smithfield's "police" have already demonstrated a proclivity towards violence and dishonesty - the last thing we need to do is have the State promote policies that could lead to a new Matewan.

Postscript

This story has an ending of sorts if not an entirely happy one. While still waiting for word of the status of the Technical Corrections Act I received this tonight from a Smithfield activist:

"I was not aware of these recent changes to to the Special Police provision. Fortunately, Smithfield disbanded its company police after we organized sufficient public pressure. They now operate a security force, without armed officers and with no arrest power. They are still mistreating and intimidating NC workers, but no longer by using men in uniform."

As I write, I see that the 2006 Technical Corrections Act passed a second House reading but not before 3 amendments were adopted this evening. The revised text is not yet available.

While I was not aware yesterday, when this issue surfaced, that the Smithfield Company Police had been dissolved into a security service, the fact remains that private police beholden to employers while protecting corporate interests present an elevated risk to individual civil rights. Laws governing company police should not be changed by sleight of hand and deserve full discussion.

After the union waged a widespread public pressure campaign, Smithfield disbanded its company police force in 2005. The head of that disbanded company police force, Danny Priest, was rewarded with a promotion to head of Smithfield’s corporate security force.

April 28, 2006 - A unanimous NLRB decision upholds a ruling by an administive law judge that found Smithfield Packing, Inc. and its cleaning contractor QSI unlawfully discharged 14 workers, assaulted workers, threatened them with bodily harm, threatened them with arrest by immigration authorities, and caused workers to be falsely arrested for taking collective action at the Tar Heel plant.

May 2, 2006 - Danny Priest, Smithfield's head of security, implicated in numerous accounts of worker abuse, runs for Bladen County Sheriff and was solidly defeated by incumbent Steve Bunn.

May 5, 2006 - A federal appeals court has ruled that Smithfield Packing repeatedly broke the law in battling workers' efforts to unionize nearly nine years ago.