North Carolina’s Bladen, Hoke and Robeson counties are home to several meat-processing plants, including the largest slaughterhouse in the world, Smithfield Packing Co. Workers at these plants work long hours for little pay. When they try to organize, they are often threatened or fired. After years of struggle, workers from Smithfield finally won a union in 2008. Now union organizers and workers are seeking a similar victory at the Mountaire Poultry Plant. These photos depict the daily lives of union organizers and workers in the rural South.
Ella Ellerbee, an organizer for UFCW Local 1208, holds up union cards while waiting on workers to stop in at the local convenience store across from the Mountaire Poultry Plant.
An interior of the Reina family’s home. The Reinas are among the many immigrant families who make up Mountaire’s workforce.
A Smithfield worker seeks refuge at a local elementary school during an ammonia leak at the factory. Slaughterhouse workers are injured at work at a rate of more than twice the national average. A 2009 ammonia leak at the Smithfield plant killed one worker and injured several others.
Jenny Aniceto Trinidad poses for a photo while union organizers speak with her parents about starting a union at Mountaire.
A Haitian worker from the Mountaire Poultry Plant listens in a meeting with organizers at his home.
Union member Patricia Bryant adds to an existing mural at the UFCW Local 1208 headquarters.
Union organizer Lorena Ramos takes a mid-day zumba break in a trailer behind the UFCW 1208 headquarters.
Union organizers Lorena Ramos and Dilcia Rodriguez on a house visit with Haitian workers from the Mountaire Poultry Plant. After their historic Smithfield win, the UFCW now hopes to successfully organize the Mountaire plant.