Smithfield Foods to maintain policy for King holiday

by Keith Nunes
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TAR HEEL, N.C. — Employees at the Tar Heel pork processing plant of Smithfield Packing Co., a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, will again vote on whether to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday in 2008, the company said last week.

While the plant was open last week on the holiday, and absentee rates were higher than normal, production continued as scheduled, Smithfield said.

Employees previously had voted not to make the day a holiday in 2007. Plant employees receive 8 paid holidays and 12 personal days each year.

"Dr. King had a profound impact on our country, and a national holiday honoring his accomplishments is a fitting honor," said Larry Johnson, vice-president of operations. "We will let our employees decide if they wish to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a part of our holiday schedule next year."

The company estimated that 300 employees did not come to work on Jan. 15, compared with 125 most days. The plant has 5,200 employees. The company estimated that, based on a canvas it conducted, 60 of the nation’s 62 pork processing plans operated as usual.

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