SCDigest Editorial Staff
With the recent agreement between the United Autoworkers and GM and – maybe – Chrysler as well, it may appear labor and U.S. manufacturers can chart a course that minimizes tensions; however, developments at Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest pork processor, show tensions and trouble.
| SCDigest Says:
| In 2006, just 11.7 percent of US hourly workers in manufacturing were in a union. This marks the first time since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking these trends, and likely for the first time in U.S. history, that union membership rates were lower in manufacturing than in the rest of the economy (12.0 percent).
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Manufacturing unions have been in a tough spot, with membership falling amidst a changing economy, increased automation in U.S. plants, and growing offshoring to China.
In 2006, just 11.7 percent of U.S. hourly workers in manufacturing were in a union. This marks the first time since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking these trends, and likely for the first time in U.S. history, that union membership rates were lower in manufacturing than in the rest of the economy (12.0 percent). The UAW made historic concessions around health care and tiered wage systems at GM that will likely be replicated at the other OEMs. Earlier, bankrupt parts maker Delphi was able to negotiate even more favorable concessions.
Smithfield Goes Nuclear
For almost a decade, Smithfield has been battling the Food and Commercial Workers Union, which has been trying to unionize the huge pork processing plant the company runs in Tar Heel, N.C. The slaughterhouse employs almost 5,000 hourly workers and processes some 32,000 hogs per day.
Last week, Smithfield filed suit in federal court in Richmond, Virginia, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), a law originally passed to target organized crime but increasingly being embraced for other causes. The suit accuses the union of engaging in a public smear campaign that included seeking frivolous regulatory investigations and providing false statements to analysts aimed at depressing the company's stock price.