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Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008 09:05 pm

Sanctioning corporate autocracy

Pig processor moves from goon tactics to tactical goofiness

Untitled Document Corporate executives have long used intimidation and thuggery to try to beat back organizing campaigns by unions, environmentalists, farmers, consumers, and others. But now at least one corporation is moving from goon tactics — to tactical goofiness. Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pig processor, has a long and sorry record of anti-union nastiness, especially at its massive slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, N.C. It has been cited by a federal appeals court for using “intense and widespread coercion” to keep its labor force from joining the United Food and Commercial Workers union. With brute force not working, Smithfield recently unleashed its legal dogs on the UFCW, trying to use an anti-Mafia racketeering law to stop the union from speaking out about the labor, environmental, and safety issues inside the plant. The goofball corporate claim is that by issuing press releases, organizing protests, and lobbying public officials the union is engaging in extortion to force Smithfield to unionize. One of the corporate lawyers cried that what UFCW is doing is “actually the same thing as what John Gotti used to do.”
That lawyer must have missed The Godfather movies. Instead of issuing press releases, the Mafia tended to favor kneecapping, machine-gunning, strangling, and other more robust actions against its opponents. Besides, doesn’t Smithfield itself issue press releases and hire lobbyists? It’s called free speech. But today’s corporate elites don’t believe in free speech for their opponents, and they now have right-wing judges in place who are willing to suspend America’s hard-won constitutional rights to sanction the actions of a rising corporate autocracy. Smithfield’s lawsuit is not just goofy, it’s dangerous — and un-American. To learn more, go to www.smithfieldjustice.com.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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