Smithfield pork plant loses hundreds of workers

RALEIGH, N.C. - Hundreds of workers at a Smithfield Packing Co. plant have quietly left their jobs or stopped showing up for work after a crackdown on illegal immigrants.
calendar icon 20 February 2007
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Many have submitted resignation letters and collected pay for unused vacation; others identified by the company in November as having unverifiable employment documents quit without notice, spokesman Dennis Pittman said.

In all, Pittman said, about 300 employees have left as of Monday.

"Some of these people had been here seven, eight or nine years. It is certainly a blow to the company," Pittman said.

In November, Smithfield sent letters to 500 to 600 employees whose Social Security numbers, names or other personal information couldn't be verified. The company fired about 50 workers for providing false information.

The firings spurred a walkout at the plant, as about 1,000 employees -- most of them Hispanic -- left in protest, quickly picking up the support of a union that has tried for years to organize the plant, where Smithfield employs about 5,000 people who slaughter up to 32,000 hogs a day.


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