The Rubenstein Library's Human Rights Archive contains extensive primary documents on labor activism and worker’s rights in North Carolina, throughout the south, and across the United States. Collections include organizational records and individual activists’ papers.
This session asks students to consider working conditions, labor policy, and organizing strategies through the analysis of such documents and to discuss the connections between labor, work, and human rights.
This module is inspired by a class with Professor Genna Miller, and developed by Hannah Ontiveros, The Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Intern 2020-2021, PhD Duke University Dept. of History, and Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist, Duke University.
[image: Justice at Smithfield by Colin Matthes and Justseeds.org]
"Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Workers' Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants", Human Rights Watch.
"After 15 Years, North Carolina Plant Unionizes", Steven Greenhouse.
"Hog Wild: The Battle for Workers’ Rights at the World’s Largest Slaughterhouse", Lynn Waltz
Ask your students to review the El Pueblo, Inc. Records collection guide.
Have your students take a moment to read the Rubenstein Library’s approach to classes. It’s very short, but includes things students will want to keep in mind as they work with primary sources now and in the future.
Day of assignment
Either individually or in groups, complete the Human Rights Document Analysis Worksheet [downloadable from the box to the left of the screen] for each of the following documents. Alternatively, If you are working as a class, divide into groups and each group can analyze one document. (~30 minutes).
After filling out the document analysis sheet, share the results of your analysis and discuss these questions (~30 minutes):
The Smithfield meat processing plant in Tar Heel, NC, is the largest slaughterhouse in the world. As of 2008, the plant employed more than 5,000 people, a majority of whom are Black and/or Latinx. Workers at Smithfield have been organizing for higher wages and better safety since the early 1990s. In 2000, a National Labor Relations Board judge found that Smithfield had egregiously violated labor law by, among other tactics, firing employees for attempting to organize in the workplace. In 2005, Justice@Smithfield, an initiative of the United Food and Commercial Workers and El Pueblo, Inc., organized to mobilize North Carolinians to put pressure on Smithfield in response to ongoing safety hazards and illegal firings of pro-union employees. In 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Smithfield to reinstate four employees illegally fired. Workers at the Tar Heel plant voted to form a union with UFCW in 2008.
The attached .pdf contains the following three documents.
North Carolina Workers Rights board hearing, Box 11, Smithfield Packing, 2005, El Pueblo Inc. Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, NC.
Smithfield Human Resources and Safety to Marisol Jimenez-McGee, Box 11, Smithfield Packing, 2005, El Pueblo Inc. Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, NC.
Sample Letter to Smithfield Packing, Box 11, Smithfield Packing, 2005, El Pueblo Inc. Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, NC.