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Packers Union Backers File Lawsuit

August 21, 2000

RALEIGH (AP) _ Union supporters behind a failed organizing drive at the world’s largest hog slaughterhouse sued Smithfield Packing Co. and the local sheriff’s department on Monday, alleging unfair interference.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union filed the civil rights lawsuit on behalf of two activists who say that company security guards beat them the day of an August 1997 vote count.

The suit contends that Bladen County sheriff’s deputies worked under the direction of the company and arrested Rayshawn Ward and John Rodriguez after a scuffle inside the plant. Four deputies also were named in the lawsuit.

``That is a private corporation taking over the power of the government,″ said Greg Denier, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Sheriff Steve Bunn and county attorney Leslie Johnson did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Bladen County manager Larry Sessoms said he had no information about the lawsuit and could not comment.

A spokesman for Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, which owns the packing plant in the town of Tar Heel, did not immediately return calls. The slaughterhouse operates under the name of Carolina Food Processors.

The 1997 organizing effort was the second in three years to fail.

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