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PAULA DEEN, COOKING FOR SMITHFIELD
You can't get much syrupier or chirpier than Paula Deen. She's the ebullient celebrity queen of Southern cooking, with a buttery drawl, a downhome manner, and her own very popular TV show on the Food Network.
These days, however, the temperature in Paula's kitchen has become red-hot, for she has cooked up a big ol' mess of political controversy for herself. Last September, she signed a lucrative endorsement deal to be a spokeswomen for America's biggest pork producer, Smithfield Foods Inc. "When I was looking for a company to partner with, " she recently gushed, "I wanted to make sure it was someone who shares my family values and traditions."
That's a mighty sweet sentiment. But, unfortunately, Smithfield is not at all sweet. It is notorious as a massive factory farm polluter of its neighbors' air and water, as a monopolist that squeezes out small family farmers, and as an anti-union abuser of working families.Family values? Try these: In recent years, Smithfield has been cited by federal regulators, courts, and other independent monitors for spying, coercing, beating, assaulting, illegally arresting, intimidating, harassing, illegally firing, and racially insulting its employees.
That's why workers from Smithfield's huge pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, are trying to get Ms. Deen to meet with them – hoping that if she learns the truth about her financial partner, she'll side with real family values over corporate dollars. Backed by a coalition of churches, unions, community organizations, and others, these low-income employees are politely but firmly asking that this high-profile chef not lend her celebrity to Smithfield's corporate villainy.
To find out how you can help, go to the Smithfield Justice Campaign at www.smithfieldjustice.com/pauladeen.
"Union, in Organizing Fight, Tangles with Celebrity Cook", The New York Times, April 20, 2007
"Deen asked to split with pork plant," Savannah Morning News, April 20, 2007
"The 10 Worst Corporations of 2006", Multinational Monitor, November/December 2006