Local News

Smithfield Workers, Supporters Gather for Protest

Posted February 6, 2007

— Dozens of people wearing matching shirts and holding signs gathered outside the Smithfield Packing Co. plant in Tar Heel on Tuesday to send a message to the company about working conditions, especially for Hispanic workers.

“They are forced to endure arrests, break-up of family, loss of income and are thrown into a state of fear,” said Rev. Nelson Johnson of the Southern Faith Labor & Community and Alliance.

Last month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 21 workers inside the plant, where about 5,000 workers process about 32,000 hogs daily.

It was part of a national crackdown.

“We have seen this game before and we continue to see it, but we're not going to allow it anymore,” said Mauricio Castro of the North Carolina Latino Coalition.

An ICE spokesperson said the 21 were all arrested on administrative immigration charges, which include being in the country illegally or overstaying a work visa. Hundreds of employees failed to show up for work the day after those arrests.

Last year, about 1,000 workers walked off the job to protest the firing of about 50 immigrant workers.

“The last time that I took time to go and be in support of my brothers and sisters… right after that I was fired from this plant,” Margarita Vasquez said through a translator.

A small group also walked out on Martin Luther King Jr. Day because the plant failed to designate it as a paid holiday. The company said then that workers had not raised the issue far enough in advance for the plant to reschedule work if it were to close that day.

“Without the workers, you couldn't make a profit. That's the whole idea–without us you can't make nothing, so treat us like somebody,” another worker told the group.

A Smithfield official told WRAL that the company wants to maintain a positive environment at Tar Heel and other plants, but the company has to follow the law and cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security in its enforcement of immigration laws.

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  • georgewilson11 Feb 8, 2007

    As I get ready to file my taxes I have to wonder how much of my tax dollars will benifit the illegals from other countries !

  • BlarneyStone Feb 7, 2007

    The great thing about America is nobody is forced to do anything. They can all quit if they want.

    The other great thing about America is you can come here illegally, work, not pay taxes, get free healthcare, free education, welfare... wooohooo.... Hey, where's mine?

  • Warden Feb 7, 2007

    “They are forced to endure arrests, break-up of family, loss of income and are thrown into a state of fear...” They committed a crime in coming here illegally, and took the risk of this happening by staying. I hope every citizen of this state and country speaks up and out against illegal immegration, so that our government can hear.

    Want to help in the immegration problem? I recommend the website www.numbersusa.com . And talk with your wallet - don't do business with/buy products from companies who employ illegals.

  • Bob3425 Feb 7, 2007

    Three cheers for INS, I hope they get more of them. In addition, I hope the Smithfield Packing Co. plant in Tar Heel is having to pay large fines for hiring illegals.

  • Crumps Br0ther Feb 7, 2007

    I love this quote.

    "They are forced to endure arrests, break-up of family, loss of income and are thrown into a state of fear,” said Rev. Nelson Johnson of the Southern Faith Labor & Community and Alliance."

    Hey Rev. if they were here LEGALLY they wouldn't have to endure any of the things they bring on themselves by being here illegally. It can't be that hard to dumb down a citizenship program, the public schools had no problem lowering their bar.

  • slobnoise Feb 7, 2007

    This is our own fault ! We the americans has the power to stop the illegal immigration problem .The Majority of the americans don't care. Thats one reason why our health insurance is so high and why jobs are becoming hard to find. So if no one wants to do anything about it, THEN whats the point of complaining?
    I think its time we the americans start standing up to the illegal immigration problem

  • crash2478 Feb 7, 2007

    Someone needs to tell these people that North Carolina is a right to work state and they can quit anytime they want if they didn't like their jobs

  • mugofstout Feb 6, 2007

    Hey no one makes you work there, or come here. Haul your butt back across the border and try whining to your own corrupt officials, see where that gets you. Believe me we had bacon, ham, and all of our other pork products long before you swam your border jumping self across the rio grande. And we will have them long after we close our borders to you.