Major Local Employer Fined for Violations

AUGUST 24, 2005 -- Months after an international human rights organization singled out Smithfield Foods' processing plant in Bladen County, the state has fined the company more than $23,000 for a series of violations.

Human Rights Watch accuses Smithfield Foods of widespread safety problems and worker abuse. The state Department of Labor announced Tuesday that an inspection that lasted several weeks resulted in 45 serious violations, nine that were less serious and the fine.

A department official says inspectors conducted a thorough investigation of a plant that he says is doing a lot of good.

State inspectors found partially blocked emergency exits, workers exposed to unguarded saw blades while cutting meat and an employee performing maintenance on a machine that hadn't been shut down.

Two workers have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, saying they were retaliated against for complaining about assembly line conditions.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.