Advocates for Labor and Progressive Institutions

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Smithfield RICO Litigation Settled on Eve of Trial

October 27, 2008

Scheduled for a six week trial beginning October 27, 2008, Smithfield Foods, Inc. and the UFCW (and other defendants) settled the case on the morning the trial was to begin.

The massive litigation—which included production of millions of pages of document discovery, more than 100 depositions around the country, briefing of more than 20 substantive, discovery, and pretrial motions (many of which were argued orally before the Court), and a four day final pretrial conference—involved complex issues of first impression involving matters of labor law and the First Amendment, as well as claims of injuries and treble damages that as alleged by Smithfield would amount to nearly three billion dollars. The essential terms of the settlement were the agreement of the UFCW to end its public campaign against Smithfield, and agreement of the parties to a fair election process by which the Smithfield employees at the Tar Heel, North Carolina plant could choose whether or not to be represented by the UFCW (see NY Times story describing the settlement). In the wake of the settlement agreement, and conducted under the terms of the code of conduct negotiated as part of the settlement, the employees of the Smithfield Tar Heel plant voted on union representation over the course of two days, December 10 and 11, 2008. Once the results were tallied by NLRB officials, it was announced that a majority of the more than 4000 workers participating in the election had voted in favor of representation by the UFCW. This victory by the UFCW under the fair process mandated by the RICO case settlement has been described by the New York Times as one of the most significant union victories in years.