Response to FTSE’s letter of August 22, 2007
September 6, 2007

We appreciate FTSE's engagement with Smithfield regarding the company's compliance with FTSE4Good workers' rights criteria and welcome Smithfield's adoption of a new human rights policy on May 7, 2007. However, we are very concerned by reports that Smithfield continues to deny its workers the right to choose freely whether to form and join a union. Those reports suggest that neither the letter nor the spirit of the company’s new human rights policy is being implemented. For these reasons, we believe FTSE4Good should remove Smithfield from its Index.

We appreciate FTSE's engagement with Smithfield regarding the company's compliance with FTSE4Good workers' rights criteria and welcome Smithfield's adoption of a new human rights policy on May 7, 2007. However, we are very concerned by reports that Smithfield continues to deny its workers the right to choose freely whether to form and join a union. Those reports suggest that neither the letter nor the spirit of the company’s new human rights policy is being implemented. For these reasons, we believe FTSE4Good should remove Smithfield from its Index. That step would send a clear message that companies included on the Index do not just make rhetorical commitments to respect internationally recognized workers' rights but actually do so in practice.

Smithfield continues to insist that workers' choice whether to organize only be made through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election and appeals system. As we wrote in our letter, however, we have grave concerns that Smithfield's egregious history of serious violations of workers' right to organize has created a climate of fear in the workplace and poisoned the atmosphere for any such future union elections. In fact, the last two elections were ruled invalid by the NLRB because of Smithfield’s egregious and unfair labor practices.

On July 14, 2007, it was reported that Smithfield had held a “captive audience" meeting five days previously, with thousands of employees where managers showed workers an anti-union video and presented them with prepared letters that they could submit to the union to support management’s repeated call for a third union election.1 These coercive captive audience meetings call into question Smithfield’s respect for the internationally recognized right of workers to organize.

Union representatives have not been allowed on Smithfield’s premises to provide their side of the story to workers and counter the company's anti-union message, though respect for workers' right to freedom of association, as guaranteed by core International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, demands "guarantee[d] access of trade union representatives to workplaces . . . so that trade unions can communicate with workers, in order to apprise them of the potential advantages of unionisation."2

Additionally, since its human rights policy was issued, Smithfield has again denied the NLRB’s April 30, 2007, finding that it threatened and made coercive statements to workers at the Tar Heel plant when they were attempting to exercise their right to form and join unions.3 That case is going to an unfair labor practice hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

Despite its new human rights policy, Smithfield’s practices have not changed significantly. The company continues to deny its workers' their right to freely choose whether to form and join a union in violation of international standards and is, therefore, not an example of a socially responsible company. We urge you to disavow this behavior by removing Smithfield from the FTSE4Good Index at your September 11 review.

Sincerely,

/s/

Arvind Ganesan
Director, Business and Human Rights Program
Human Rights Watch

1 See Gerry Broome, “Smithfield maneuvers to hold vote,” News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.), July 14, 2007.
2 ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, Complaint against the Government of the United States Presented by the UFCW, the AFL-CIO, and the International Federation of Commercial, Clerical, Professional and Technical Employees (FIET), Report No. 284, Case No. 1523, Vol. LXXV, 1992, Series B, No. 3, para. 199(a).
3 See Complaint and Notice of Hearing, Smithfield Foods, Inc., and United Food and Commercial Workers, NLRB Div. of Judges, Case No. 11-CA-21353 (April 30, 2007).