Rap: ‘If we can change the White House, we can change the hog house’

The victory was so beautiful it deserved a poem--even a rap.

In December 2008, just a few weeks after Barack Obama’s election, the United Food and Commercial Workers won one of the largest union elections in decades at the Smithfield Foods pig slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, North Carolina. The 5,000-worker plant is the largest in the world, killing 32,000 pigs a day. The workers are mostly African Americans and Latino immigrants.

The union used a national Justice@Smithfield Campaign to put community pressure on the company—which prompted Smithfield to sue for extortion under the RICO Act. Throughout, the organizing committee acted like a union inside the plant, organizing workers to publicly stand up for their rights on the shop floor.

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Finally the company agreed to a set of rules that could allow for a fair election, including a short campaign period—six weeks. The Tar Heel workers won the vote, and joy broke out for miles around.

This rap tells the story from the inside of the campaign.


Gene Bruskin was director of the Justice@Smithfield Campaign for the UFCW from 2006 through 2008. If you’d like a copy of the rap, email him at genebruskin [at] gmail [dot] com. And if you'd like to hear him perform it, come to the Saturday night open mic at the Labor Notes Conference, April 23-25.