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No ShortcutsOrganizing for Power in the New Gilded Age$
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Jane F. McAlevey

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190624712

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190624712.001.0001

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Smithfield Foods

Smithfield Foods

A Huge Success You’ve Hardly Heard About

Chapter:
(p.143) 5 Smithfield Foods
Source:
No Shortcuts
Author(s):

Jane F. McAlevey

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190624712.003.0005

This chapter demonstrates how motivation and strategy may have more to do with failure and success across all sectors of workers than previously thought. Most academics have long assumed that organizing the unorganized might be possible only among low-wage service workers. The case study of Smithfield Foods returns the focus to the private sector, to the organization of the world’s largest pork production facility, in rural North Carolina—the state with the lowest rate of unionization in the United States. The workers there are mostly men, and the employer had encouraged and exploited racial and ethnic tensions among them so profoundly as to turn the plant into a de facto Jim Crow enclave. It was in this unpromising context that the workers in a traditional private-sector factory were organized into a strong union that achieved a stunning win.

Keywords:   unionization, Smithfield Foods, low-wage service workers, private sector, North Carolina

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