Economy > Jobs > Unions
Credit William E. Sauro/The New York Times
Victor Gotbaum, the City’s Shop Steward
APRIL 6, 2015
union / trade union UK
UK / USA
union / labor leader
union leader UK
right to be represented by a union
The National Labor Relations Board
The National Labor Relations Board was created in 1935
as part of the National Labor Relations Act
to oversee enforcement of the laws governing union drives,
strikes and labor-contract negotiations in the private sector.
The board’s official history
described the purpose of the act
as to “serve the public purpose
by reducing interruptions in commerce
caused by industrial strife.
It seeks to do this by providing orderly processes
for implementing and protecting the rights
of employees, employers and unions.’'
The N.L.R.B.’s two main functions
are to oversee elections
to determine if a workplace
will be unionized
and to respond to complaints
of unfair labor practices.
Updated: Dec. 12, 2011
unionist > Arthur Scargill
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March 2, 1979
Dated: 09 avr. 2013
After 15 Years,
North Carolina Plant Unionizes
December 13, 2008
The New York Times
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
After an expensive and emotional 15-year organizing battle, workers at the
world’s largest hog-killing plant, the Smithfield Packing slaughterhouse in Tar
Heel, N.C., have voted to unionize.
The United Food and Commercial Workers, which had lost unionization elections at
the 5,000-worker plant in 1994 and 1997, announced late Thursday that it had
finally won. The victory was significant in a region known for hostility toward
The vote was one of the biggest private-sector union successes in years, and
officials from the United Food and Commercial Workers said it was the largest in
that union’s history.
The union won by 2,041 votes to 1,879 after two years of turmoil at the plant.
As a result of a federal crackdown on illegal immigrants, more than 1,500
Hispanic workers have left the plant. Its work force is now 60 percent black, up
from around 20 percent two years ago.
After the results were announced, Wanda Blue, a hog counter, was among the many
workers who were celebrating.
“It feels great,” said Ms. Blue, who makes $11.90 an hour and has worked at
Smithfield for five years. “It’s like how Obama felt when he won. We made
“I favored the union because of respect,” said Ms. Blue, who is black. “We
deserve more respect than we’re getting. When we were hurt or sick, we weren’t
getting treated like we should.”
“The union didn’t win by a big margin, but it’s an important positive sign for
labor,” said Richard Hurd, a professor of labor relations at Cornell University.
“They may be able to use it as leverage to organize other meatpacking plants in
the South. The victory may be tied to the political environment. The election of
Barack Obama may have eased people’s concerns about speaking out and standing up
for a union.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers maintained that it lost the 1997 election
because Smithfield broke the law by intimidating and firing union supporters. In
2006, after seven years of litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that Smithfield had engaged in “intense
and widespread” coercion.
The court ordered Smithfield to reinstate four union supporters it found were
illegally fired, one of whom was beaten by the plant’s police on the day of the
1997 election. The court also said Smithfield had engaged in other illegal
activities: spying on workers’ union activities, confiscating union materials,
threatening to fire workers who voted for the union and threatening to freeze
wages and shut the plant.
The unionization campaign this year was conducted under unusual conditions and
rules, intended to reduce the vitriol.
In October, the company and the union reached a settlement under court
supervision in which the union agreed to drop its nationwide campaign intended
to denounce and embarrass Smithfield and the company agreed to drop a lawsuit
asserting that the union’s denunciations and calls for a boycott violated
The union’s pressure campaign had been intended to persuade the company to let
the workers decide on unionizing not through secret balloting but through having
a majority of workers sign pro-union cards.
Under the settlement, the two sides could campaign in a limited fashion, and
they could not denounce each other. The agreement also allowed union organizers
on the plant’s property; union organizers are generally barred from setting foot
on company property, even a parking lot, unless management consents.
“We won because that gave us more of a level playing field,” said Joseph Hansen,
the union’s president. “That was probably the major thing.”
Dennis Pittman, a Smithfield spokesman, said: “It was close, and the people had
a chance to do what we wanted all along, to speak their voice in a secret
ballot, and they spoke. As we said all along, we will respect their decision.”
Mr. Pittman said he expected that the two sides would begin negotiations early
Many unions are pushing Congress to pass legislation that would enable unions to
organize workers by having them sign pro-union cards. “I would say in this case,
it shows that the union can win without a card check,” Mr. Pittman said.
But Mr. Hansen said the 15-year unionization fight showed how hard it was to win
under the normal system.
To win the election, union organizers pushed for the cooperation of the plant’s
black and Hispanic workers. At lunchtime, outspoken workers sometimes wore
T-shirts saying “Smithfield Justice” and gave speeches to hundreds of workers.
Several workers said that in the days leading up to the vote, some 2,000 workers
had “Union Time” written on their hard hats.
Professor Hurd said one factor that helped the union was the growing percentage
of black workers at the plant. “African-Americans are the strongest supporters
of unions,” he said.
Lydia Victoria, who helps cut off hog tails at the plant, acknowledged that many
Hispanic workers were afraid of being seen as union supporters. Illegal
immigrant workers are especially worried because they fear deportation.
“A lot of Hispanic people,” Ms. Victoria said, “were scared to support the
union, sometimes because of the language, and sometimes because they feel they
don’t get the same treatment like the people who speak English.”
“But people came together,” she said. “People wanted fair treatment. We fought
so long to get this, and it finally happened.”
After 15 Years, North
Carolina Plant Unionizes,
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