Sowing Peace and Justice

The management of the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina—where 25,000 to 32,000 hogs are slaughtered each day—and the lawyers of a local Catholic parish came to a verbal agreement after hundreds of employees walked out of the plant last November. The walkout came after Smithfield fired 58 workers following a federally mandated documentation check for immigrant workers. Several of the fired employees reportedly had legal work permits. Father Carlos Arce of St. Andrews Catholic Church in Red Springs, North Carolina, received a phone call from the plant's spokesperson saying that the workers requested that he mediate. "I said, 'You don't have to explain anything to me; you need to speak to your workers directly,' but he insisted that we meet," Arce told Sojourners.

After Smithfield met with diocesan lawyers, the plant invited all 58 fired employees to go through a process to confirm or correct any errors with their Social Security numbers and possibly return to work after the corrections were completed. "Most of the Hispanics that work there are my parishioners," said Father Arce.

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