It was close, but in the end, workers at the Smithfield Packing Plant in Bladen County voted to become part of a union. The outcome of yesterday's secret ballot vote in favor of union representation has many wondering what's next for Smithfield Packing. After a two-day election process, the tally came to 2,041 in favor to 1,879 against joining the United Food and Commercial Workers Union; a 162-vote margin. Though it was hardly a landslide victory, the employees of Smithfield have spoken. It's now official, and those in favor of the union say the outcome is overdue. Marquita Brooks, a Smithfield employee said "Anything is better than what we were going through. We gave Smithfield a chance and seeing how they run things and we didn't like it. So we are going to give the union a chance to see how they run things. I know it will be better at Smithfield Packing." Another employee, Lemuel Heslip said, "That's what the union is really about, the people standing up for themselves and uniting." The possibility of union representation for employees at the Tar Heel hog processing plant has been on the table for the past 16 years. After two previous attempts to unionize failed, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union launched an aggressive campaign in 2006, including boycotts. Smithfield filed a lawsuit against the UFCW and both companies agreed the workers would decide in an election. The push to unionize began after workers claimed they were being mistreated and had poor working conditions. Issues few feel comfortable talking about on camera. An anonymous employee said, "Poor working conditions, we are over worked. I feel like we are under paid. We are not asking for much, we just want a little acknowledgment." As unionized workers, employees are hoping for higher wages, improved working conditions and better health care benefits. UFCW already represents employees at eight other smaller Smithfield Packing Plants around the country; the Tar Heel plant makes nine. Contract negotiations to address workers concerns will begin after the holidays. A Smithfield spokesperson said they are looking forward to working with the UFCW and respect the latest election results.
Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.