Peaceful vigil beginning 2:30pm Saturday, June 2nd CenturyTel Arena, followed by “Smithfield Free” fish fry
A peaceful vigil will be held outside Paula Deen’s June 2nd 4pm cooking show in front of the Century Tel Arena, 2000 CenturyTel Center Drive in Bossier City, to ask the chef to end its relationship with Smithfield, the abusive pork processing company. A “Smithfield, Tar Heel -free” fish fry for the community will follow.
Concerned community members from will attempt to deliver a letter to Paula Deen written by Smithfield workers from the company’s massive pork plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina seeking a meeting with Ms. Deen. Organizations across the country are vowing to follow the chef during her tour until she accepts the letter and agrees to hear the concerns of the families working at Smithfield. Shreveport is the first in that tour.
The letter explains the injustices that Tar Heel’s predominantly African American and Latino workers have to face everyday by the sponsor of Deen’s national tour, Smithfield Foods. They will also be giving out literature to the public to raise consumer awareness about the abuses the workers suffer. The company was found in various legal rulings to have assaulted, intimidated and used racial epithets against its workers. Many workers say that they suffer crippling injuries, are fired when they can’t keep up with the work and then left without health insurance or the ability to earn a living.
During a recent April appearance by Deen in Washington, DC a mother of three who was injured while working at Smithfield, attempted to peacefully deliver the letter asking Deen to meet with her and other Smithfield workers and was escorted out by security.
“We want to be able to cook for our families just like you do, but if you have had your finger cut off from working at Smithfield, you can?t” said former Smithfield worker Lenora Bailey who had been injured on the job and was subsequently fired. “We are just asking Paula to not support a company that is causing so many of our families to suffer. We want her to do the right thing. She should use her influence to ask the company to stop abusing us. ”
The international human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, documented widespread dangerous conditions in two reports on the company’s Tar Heel plant. A separate report by Research Associates of America found injuries are up in the plant 200 percent since 2003 based on government data.
As recently as May 25th of 2007, workers in Tar Heel were engaged in a fight to get clean drinking water for 90 workers in the Livestock department, where 32,000 hogs a day are herded into the massive plant. Workers filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Department last week alleging that they have no access to clean drinking water even as they work in searing hot temperatures. “Sometimes we wait up to three hours to get the water,” says livestock worker Lois Burns, “one of our fellow employees collapsed this month after becoming dizzy. He had not been provided fresh water for six hours.”
Roosevelt Smalley of the Shreveport Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO) is inviting community supporters to join in a “Smithfield (Tar Heel products) Free Fish Fry” following the vigil because he believes that what is happening to Smithfield’s Tar Heel workers is a Shreveport issue. “Smithfield sells a lot of its Tar Heel products here in Shreveport and I just don?t see why Paula Deen won?t meet with the workers,” said Smalley. “If she believes in families she should at least want to know about how working for Smithfield can affect workers’ families since she is traveling around the country promoting the company’s products. That only seems fair. As Dr. Martin Luther King said ‘An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ “