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Smithfield Foods Reaches Settlement with Union

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - The more than 4,000 workers at Smithfield Foods' hog slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, N.C., will get another chance to unionize under a settlement between the plant and union.

The world's largest pork producer, based in Smithfield, Va., filed a racketeering lawsuit against United Food and Commercial Workers International in 2007, claiming that the union's public campaign against Smithfield amounted to extortion.

Under the settlement, the union agreed to stop campaigning activities against Smithfield, which had included product boycotts, protests at shareholder meetings, and a letter to stock analysts.

The settlement calls for an election allowing employees at the North Carolina meat-packing plant to join the union. They voted twice against union membership - in 1994 and 1997 - which the union alleges was due to employee intimidation by Smithfield.

United Food and Commercial Workers, which has been pushing to unionize Smithfield's Blanden County slaughterhouse for more than 15 years, said that Smithfields' claims violated First Amendment rights, an argument that Judge Robert Payne barred from the defense.

The trial was scheduled to start Monday in Richmond, Va.

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