Smithfield Foods Workers Protest No MLK Holiday

January 16, 2007 ( - About 400 workers at a Smithfield Foods Inc. hog slaughtering plant walked out or did not come to work for their first shift on Monday in protest of not getting a paid holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

According to the Associated Press, workers at the Tar Heel, North Carolina processing plant, which employs about 5,000 workers, were asked if they wanted Easter or Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday, and they chose Easter.

However, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the workers petitioned the company last week to grant Monday as a paid holiday – a request that Smithfield Foods refused because it would have been too short a notice.

The news report said that company and union officials said last week workers who missed work will be docked a day’s pay and could be disciplined. The company told the AP that the protest did not slow operations, even though the workers did take credit for shutting down a production line.

About 100 to 150 people miss work for a typical shift, company spokesman Dennis Pittman said, according to the news report. The company gives each worker 12 personal days a year besides vacation and holidays, Pittman said.