Smithfield CEO must step down!

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Smithfield CEO must step down!

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As of April 27th, nearly 900 workers at Smithfield’s Sioux Falls, SD plant have tested positive for COVID-19, making the plant one of the country’s largest hotspots. Two workers have died so far. Despite workers’ pleas for greater protections, the company failed to act responsibly. Now its employees—and their communities—are paying the ultimate price. 

Smithfield’s leadership must be held accountable for this suffering and other injustices they have caused, starting with CEO Kenneth Sullivan. 

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted Smithfield’s refusal to protect worker and consumer health. Smithfield slaughter plant workers describe feeling pressured to come into work even when feeling ill and exhibiting symptoms. One worker in South Dakota told a reporter, “Those people don’t care about us. If you die, they’ll just replace you tomorrow.” 

Smithfield’s response to the outbreak?  A spokesperson blamed the “living circumstances in certain cultures” for the mass outbreaks. Instead of taking ownership, Smithfield’s leadership used problematic rhetoric and deflection tactics to get out of protecting their workers.

As a North Carolinian, I am deeply familiar with the injustices Smithfield inflicts on the most vulnerable members of society. Here, Smithfield is well known for putting profits over public health. More than 500 North Carolina residents—the vast majority of whom are people of color—have sued the company for subjecting them to the intolerable experience of living next to a mega factory farm. For decades, they’ve endured the unbearable stench of pig waste that is kept in massive, open-air pits then sprayed into the air. Scientists have even documented pig feces on and inside residents’ homes. Smithfield has the power to address these concerns, but it has done nothing.

Animals, too, suffer at the hands of this exploitative company. Pigs raised for Smithfield are crammed by the thousands inside filthy factory farms and treated like unfeeling commodities, despite the fact that they are incredibly intelligent and capable of feeling pain. Smithfield claims it is moving away from gestation crates—tiny cages that trap mother pigs, preventing them from even turning around—but investigations reveal they have not kept their promise. 

Under Kenneth Sullivan’s leadership, Smithfield is causing extraordinary harm to workers, communities, and animals. This company puts profit above all else and rakes in billions of dollars yearly at the expense of those who have few means to defend themselves. 

It’s time we say enough is enough. It’s time for Kenneth Sullivan to step down as CEO.

Photo credit: NBC News