Virginia-based Smithfield Foods Inc. has filed suit against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), alleging it waged a two-year campaign of extortion to force the company to unionize its hog slaughterhouse in Tar Heel.
Smithfield filed suit under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), often used to prosecute organized crime. The suit accused the UFCW of spawning bogus regulatory investigations and giving false statements to analysts to depress Smithfield’s stock prices.
Smithfield filed the lawsuit two days after cutting off talks with the UFCW aimed at negotiating an organizing election. The UFCW rejected an offer of votes overseen by a third party with equal access to employees.
The lawsuit alleges the UFCW has conspired with other labor organizations to force its way into companies “regardless of actual employee support for such organization.” Smithfield cited union drives at supermarkets and Wal-Mart as examples.
The UFCW lost two North Carolina organizing elections in 1994 and 1997 amid allegations of company interference.