Local News

Some Smithfield Workers Stay Out for King Holiday

Posted January 15, 2007
Updated August 22, 2007

— The United Food and Commercial Workers union had warned of a large walk-out at the Smithfield Packing Co. plant because of the Martin Luther King holiday, but most workers showed up for business as usual on Monday.

A handful of workers skipped work to attend a King memorial service in Fayetteville, however.

They sang the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and spoke forcefully inside the First Baptist Church.

"We're united in the cause of justice," one speaker shouted to those gathered. "Give courage to those who are workers at Smithfield."
Union representatives wore yellow T-shirts saying "Smithfield Justice" in English on the front and in Spanish on the back.
Johnnie Davis was among those who took an unpaid day off from Smithfield.

"I told 'em on the job I was gonna be off regardless, you understand?" Davis said.

"This is a day to honor, and this is a holiday, and at Smithfield, they don't want to honor that day," Eugene Rogers said.

At the Smithfield plant, managers say that about 4 percent of their 5,500 workers are absent on an average day. Monday, absenteeism was about 6 percent, they said.

Workers had presented a petition last week asking for the day off. Smithfield said there was not enough time.

"We said, ‘Look folks, this is mighty short notice for us to change the process here.'  We book our business out monthly ahead of time," Smithfield spokesman Dennis Pittman said.

A few years ago, Pittman said, workers voted overwhelmingly not to swap their Easter day off for a King holiday.

"What I think, it's just a shame and disgrace that they use this birth date of a good leader to advance the cause of the union," Pittman said.

Smithfield officials say they cannot give their workers more than eight paid holidays.

They say those who didn't show up for work Monday will not be penalized, but the time will be treated as an unpaid day off.


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  • Execution Style Jan 17, 2007

    if work says you have to come to work then you have to come to work. end of story. I hate to break the news but...Some people even have to work on other federal holidays!

  • M1911-A1 Jan 16, 2007

    Every year he is deified a little more than the one previous. Too bad the FBI files on him will never be released. Then the public could see that he was not only a womanizer but also a member of the communist party.

  • kevin4unc Jan 16, 2007

    Why do we keep promoting this man as if he were some God. The week of his famous speech, it has been proven that he was bedding down with another woman besides his wife. And to think that he was supposedly a pastor that preached the Gospel. Enough to make a real Christian puke.

  • kaycee2 Jan 16, 2007

    They should have been forced to take a vacation day, or else be fired.

  • HighRiskCO Jan 16, 2007

    Good Lord. The company has certain ground rules pertaining to vacation days, holidays and sick days. Upon excepting the job, these rules were known. Now, one week prior to MLK Day, employees want to change the rules to benefit them. Come on people...if you don't like the conditions then just quit! I'm sure there are at least 10 people waiting in line for your job. In the meantime, the company did the right thing and afforded you an opportunity to choose how to deduct the time off. But yet I don't hear one of these people saying "Thank You"

  • huntleyperez Jan 16, 2007

    most jobs I know give you employment info at hire and in this info a list of company approved holidays and pay variations on those days. If you don't like the list, move on, someone needs the job.

  • wisdomb4beauty Jan 16, 2007

    I can't blame the workers for not wanting to swap Easter for MLK day. I think Easter honoring my Lord's resurrection from the dead to provide me with life ever-lasting is a bit more important to me than MLK day. I get MLK day off. MLK day is fine, I've got no problems with it. I don't get President's day in February and I think that's WRONG. I should be able to honor the past and present leaders of this great country I live in. My husband gets MLK Day and President's Day as holidays but doesn't get an EASTER holiday. That's crazy!!!!!!!!! I think Easter is more important than MLK Day or President's Day but I don't think the employees where he works get to vote on their holidays. But if they did, they'd probably opt for an Easter holiday as opposed to the MLK day as well.

  • S-O-L Jan 16, 2007

    Easter is far and away the more important holiday!

  • narck9 Jan 16, 2007

    What a way to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday. By smearing his name in some ploy to get a paid day off of work. Pathetic.

  • weepyeyes007 Jan 15, 2007

    what they are not realizing is that the company voted for longer easter vac or to be off for mlk, they chose longer easter vac