Smithfield Foods Sues Union for "Extortionate Measures"

October 18, 2007 ( - Smithfield Foods, Inc. announced it has sued the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and its agents accusing the union of employing "extortionate measures."

According to the announcement, the action follows more than two years of malicious conduct against the company designed to hurt Smithfield’s business and forcing the company’s “voluntary” recognition of the union as the exclusive bargaining representatives of hourly employees at its pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina.

The 99-page complaint alleges the union’s violations include:

  • a public smear campaign,
  • frivolous regulatory investigations,
  • the communication of false statements to analysts intended to reduce Smithfield’s stock price,
  • unlawful interference with current and prospective business relations; and
  • a publicly established illegal extortionate pressure campaign intended to drive Smithfield out of business unless the company agreed to meet the union’s demands against its will.

The suit was filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to hinder future attempts by the union to further damage Smithfield’s business.

The company contends that the union attempted to force the unionization of the Tar Heel employees as a means of maintaining and increasing the union’s own power in the face of diminishing nationwide significance.

Further, Smithfield said the UFCW seeks to gain strategic and financial leverage in negotiations on behalf of other units at Smithfield currently represented by the union and to generate membership for its organization to fund salary increases and pension plan contributions for individuals currently in the union, though not necessarily for the prospective Smithfield members.

The suit seeks compensatory and consequential damages to Smithfield’s business and property, damages resulting from the union’s acts and omissions, and exemplary and punitive damages for the union’s intentional and malicious misconduct.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, is here .