Picnics and Picketers

Summertime means picnics, burgers, hotdogs and barbecue to most of us, but for the folks working in the packing plants where those hotdogs and picnic hams are produced, work is no picnic. And that is why Smithfield Foods workers are picketing this week, in towns and cities across the country. Smithfield, in Tar Heel, North Carolina, is the world's largest pork packing plant.

Work in a meat packing plant is among the most dangerous work in the country. It's also low paid, with wages starting at roughly $7-8 per hour. The bloodiest and most physically intense slaughterhouse jobs are disproportionately filled by Latinos and African-Americans. Permanent work-related injuries are common. These workers have been fighting for their right to form a union to try to address their working conditions, and improve them. They are backed by a labor board decision and by various religious and labor organizations.

There's more information on the net through various newsfeeds, and at the Change to Win site.

It seems conditions for these workers have not improved much since I wrote about workers on strike at Smithfield/Lykes in Plant City, Florida. An account of their six week strike in 1998 is included in my unpublished book, "Diary of a Wage Slave." I can't go back to the events I lived through in that book. It's still too painful. Hence, this post will be brief.

Today, my health is worse than in 1998. I'm wearier, less idealistic, maybe. But as I read about these working conditions--which are hellish, I do care. Please go to the site http://www.changetowin.org/ and help in whatever way you can. We are all in this together.

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