Workers at the largest employer in Bladen County are facing a tough decision. It all comes down to a vote to determine if the employees at the Smithfield Food's pork producing plant in Tar Heel will unionize or not. Smithfield is not only the largest pork processing plant in the world but employees thousands, which is part of the reason why going union in a typically union-free state is such a touchy subject. The election will decide if the workers will unionize under the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Two previous attempts to unionize the company failed, and the aftermath has been ugly. The UFCW launched an aggressive campaign in June 2006 that included boycotts and other actions against Smithfield. Smithfield filed a lawsuit against the UFCW claiming extortion. As part of a settlement reached in October, both sides agreed to another election and released a joint statement stating: "Smithfield and the UFCW have agreed on what both parties believe to be a fair election process by which the employees at Smithfield's Tar Heel plant can choose whether or not to be represented by the UFCW." Union talks began when employees claimed they were mistreated and had a poor work environment. Employees will vote by secret ballot Wednesday and Thursday, which will be supervised by the Nation Labor Relations Board. Smithfield already has 19 other smaller plants that are unionized.
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