Score One for the Smithfield Workers of Sioux Falls

After suffering one of the worst workplace outbreaks of Covid-19 in the country last year, pork processors in South Dakota have secured a major labor victory.

Maximillian Alvarez

An outbreak of Covid-19 forced the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., to shut down in 2020. Kerem Yucel / Getty Images

We cover a lot of important worker struggles on this show, but it’s important to cover worker victories as well — and workers in South Dakota just landed a huge victory! After suffering one of the worst COVID workplace outbreaks in the country last year, leading to four deaths and over 1,000 infections, workers at the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls refused to back down on demands for better pay and for a 15-minute break during the second half of their shifts. 

When negotiations with Smithfield stalled, UFCW Local 304A members voted overwhelmingly (98%) to authorize a strike, and the company backed down. On this extended mini-cast, we welcome back beloved friend of the show and president of the South Dakota Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, Kooper Caraway, to discuss this important victory and what lessons the labor movement should take away from it.

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Maximillian Alvarez is a writer and editor based in Baltimore and the host of Working People, a podcast by, for, and about the working class today.” His work has been featured in venues like In These Times, The Nation, The Baffler, Current Affairs, and The New Republic.

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