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Week of 12.15.06

Food Fight

Video: Food Fight
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This week NOW travels to Tar Heel, North Carolina to investigate the twelve-year battle to unionize the world's largest pork processing plant. In so doing, NOW's Maria Hinojosa became the first TV journalist ever allowed to film inside the plant, owned by Smithfield Packing, a Fortune 500 company.

Smithfield has been locked in a fight with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) for over a decade amid court and government findings of past intimidation, physical violence, spying, and other past violations of workers' rights.

While following the story, we meet Keith Ludlum, a long-time employee of the plant who has been collaborating with his fellow workers to try to unionize Smithfield Foods.

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"[Smithfield] values the hog and the processing of that hog more than they do the safety and the well-being of their employees," Ludlum tells NOW. The UFCW is calling for a national boycott of Smithfield products. For its part, Smithfield says it's the victim of a smear campaign by the union.

The outcome of the stand-off—one of America's longest running labor fights ever—is a test case for organized labor's efforts to unionize low-wage workers, particularly in the traditionally anti-union South. Can labor unions still pack a punch for workers?