Protesters target Smithfield Foods

by Amy Kingsley

About 30 protesters from Student Action with Farmworkers and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union hit Greensboro Sunday as part of their tour to raise awareness of labor practices at Smithfield Foods.

Activists from the union targeted a Harris Teeter on the corner of Market Street and Muirs Chapel Road because the grocery chain carries Smithfield pork products packaged as their store brand. Before Greensboro they visited Harris Teeter locations in Durham, Raleigh and Asheville. Their next target is a store in Fayetteville.

Federal agencies including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Labor Relations Board have cited the Smithfield Foods slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, NC for numerous labor and safety violations. The Tar Heel facility is the largest hog-killing plant in the country and employs more than 5,000 people, most of them black and Hispanic.

‘“[Harris Teeter] sells a lot of Smithfield products,’” said union organizer Libby Manly. ‘“And we believe that people care about where their food comes from. This is about the human cost of food.’”

The protest was uneventful. At one point, a delegation of protesters walked inside the store to return a Smithfield pork loin purchased earlier that day. Harris Teeter co-manager Tim Morse provided a full refund and listened to the protesters outline the problems at Smithfield.

Morse said, ‘“God bless you,’” to the protesters after they left, according to Richard Koritz, one of the members of the delegation.

‘— Amy Kingsley