TAR HEEL, N.C. -- The president of Smithfield Packing Company yesterday called on the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union to "let the workers vote."

Joe Luter IV, Smithfield's president and chief operating officer, said in an open letter to Joe Hansen, president of the UFCW: "Let the workers vote. Let the employees at Tar Heel decide -- by secret ballot -- whether they want a union. Let them decide whether the charges your union is making against Smithfield are true."

In a news release, Smithfield also said that the union is not being honest about the status of immigrant workers at the plant.

Dennis Pittman, Smithfield's Director of Corporate Communications, said, "Smithfield is required by federal law to dismiss any employee who is not legally authorized to work in the United States. The union knows this. But it is trying to frighten Hispanic employees into supporting the union."

In his letter, Luter said Smithfield is ready to resolve any issues that remain before the National Labor Relations Board so it can order a new union election at the plant. Employees voted twice in the 1990s to reject unionization.
He added, "Smithfield will help bear the cost of a neutral outside observer - such as a church group or the Carter Center in Atlanta - to oversee the election. This will assure a fair vote."

Luter's letter concluded, "Smithfield is ready. It is time to resolve this matter. Let the employees choose what is best for them."

Smithfield Packing Co. is America's leading pork producer. It produces a variety of pork products - country hams, hot dogs, bacon, deli meat, fresh meat, barbeque, sausage and more - for customers around the world. It is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, a leading international food company.

SOURCE: Smithfield Packing Company via PR Newswire.