Smithfield Workers Arrested in Immigrant Raids
21 immigrant meatpackers were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers January 24 at the Smithfield Foods plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina.
The Tar Heel plant’s 5,000 workers have been fighting to organize a union since the early 1990’s. Pro-union workers have faced fierce employer opposition, including retaliatory firings, beatings, and harassment.
The Tar Heel plant is the largest hog processing plant in the country.
ICE spokespeople told the Associated Press that workers were arrested on “administrative immigration charges,” but United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) organizer Eduardo Peña, who’s been organizing at the plant for more than four years, believes the ICE raid was an act of retaliation. On January 15, Martin Luther King Day, hundreds of Tar Heel workers—including many immigrants—refused to come to work, protesting Smithfield’s refusal to give them Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday.
“When immigrant workers take a stand,” said Peña, “Smithfield and the government arrest and intimidate them.”
[To learn more about the Smithfield workers’ struggle, see the articles from our August 2006 and February 2007 issues. To learn about how you can support the Smithfield campaign, go to Justice at Smithfield]