Hog Wild: The Bat­tle for Worker’s Rights at the World’s Largest Slaugh­ter­house

Lynn Waltz

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - AN­GELA WOLTMAN

Univer­sity of Iowa Press (MAY) Soft­cover $24.95 (280pp) 978-1-60938-585-9

In Lynn Waltz’s Hog Wild: The Bat­tle for Work­ers’ Rights at the World’s Largest Slaugh­ter­house, the dan­ger­ous and ex­ploita­tive meat-pack­ing in­dus­try re­ceives fresh fo­cus through a four­teen-year cam­paign to union­ize the Smith­field pork pro­cess­ing plant amid cor­rup­tion, lies, and cor­po­rate greed.

When Smith­field Foods opened a pork pro­cess­ing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, in 1992, work­ers flocked to the plant hop­ing to find steady work and fair pay. How­ever, as the plant grew and bosses re­sisted union­iza­tion so that they could keep wages low, in­juries piled up and work­ing con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rated. It wasn’t un­til Sherri Buf­fkin, a top man­ager, was fired with­out rea­son and de­cided to ex­pose the com­pany that the full truth started to emerge.

A com­pelling com­bi­na­tion of jour­nal­ism, in-depth in­ter­views, and ex­haus­tive re­search, Hog Wild not only tells the story of the Smith­field slaugh­ter­house but also il­lus­trates a much larger pic­ture of the la­bor move­ment in the United States, which has a his­tory of ex­ploit­ing those who have the least means of fight­ing back.

In ad­di­tion to giv­ing a solid his­tory of union­iza­tion, the book also shows a hu­man side to the union power strug­gle and how peer pres­sure, in­tim­i­da­tion, and mis­in­for­ma­tion can sway work­ers away from vot­ing for what would most ben­e­fit them. In no-non­sense prose that lets ac­tions speak louder than words, the book pleads the ques­tion: When does the safety of the worker mat­ter more than prof­its?

Bring­ing in his­toric events such as Paula Deen’s con­tro­ver­sial en­dorse­ment of Smith­field’s hams, Jesse Jack­son’s in­ter­ven­tion in the Smith­field union vote, and how the open­ing up of US bor­ders led to a sea change in the South’s em­ploy­ment pro­file, Hog Wild is a com­pre­hen­sive and fas­ci­nat­ing look at what it means to be a poor worker in an area with few op­tions.

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