Political Notes: Meat company officials put the heat on council
Local and national officials for the Smithfield Foods Inc. meat company appeared before the Prince George’s County Council last week to say the council’s involvement in a labor dispute was not kosher.
In November, the council passed a resolution denouncing the company for allegedly disrupting efforts by workers to form a union at a pork processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C. The council unanimously passed the resolution Nov. 20 at the request of the local labor union United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400.
In the resolution, county officials pledged to support workers against an alleged ‘‘environment of intimidation, fear and violence” at the North Carolina pork processing facility that employs more than 5,000 people.
‘‘Your resolution made it sound like we were harming people, mistreating people and that is not the truth,” said Jim Patterson, a public relations manager for the meat company based out of Smithfield, Va. ‘‘We’d ask that you try to understand before you take action.”
Patterson said the UFCW union has used the council’s resolution to discredit Smithfield. UFCW officials could not be reached by press time.
The dispute centered around how the union is trying to enlist workers, Patterson said. While Smithfield wants a unionization vote to occur through secret ballot, UFCW wants to collect worker signatures through an open petition. Both sides claim the other’s method encourages worker intimidation.
The local manager for Smithfield’s processing plant in Landover also roasted the council.
‘‘I was kind of taken aback by that,” said Bill Jones, manager at the Landover plant. ‘‘We’re not some monster. We’re not in some far-off state. We’re right here in Prince George’s County.”
Council members thanked the officials for coming in, but did not take any further action.
County businesses charged over environmental violations
State regulators issued fines against two Prince George’s County businesses that allegedly violated air pollution laws, officials for the Maryland Department of the Environment said last week.
A $15,000 fine was given to a Brandywine power plant, while a commercial laundry plant in Laurel faces a $150,000 citation for unreported air pollution from cleaning chemicals.
G&K Services allegedly failed to get permits for discharging ‘‘volatile organic compounds” at the Laurel facility since at least 2005, according to regulators. The discharges, which were discovered during a consultant’s assessment of the laundry two years ago, have now stopped after company officials discontinued using the chemicals. The company is now seeking permits with the state, environmental officials said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, volatile organic compounds are found in common cleaning chemicals, paint, solvents and thousands of other items, and can cause respiratory problems and have been linked to cancer in animals.
The $15,000 fine for the Panda Brandywine power plant came after the company failed to submit monthly reports tracking emissions from the plant at Route 301 and Cedarville Road. The monthly reporting was a requirement under an agreement the Texas-based energy company signed with the state in 2007.
The two turbines at the plant are used to provide extra electricity at peak demand times. Officials paid the fine on Feb. 15, according to the MDE.
Neither G&K Services nor Panda could be reached for comment.
Acosta nameddeputy state’s attorney
A former county prosecutor is returning to Prince George’s after a two-year stint prosecuting gangs for the federal government.
Carlos Acosta, a 44-year-old former prosecutor for the Prince George’s Office of the State’s Attorney, was appointed last month as a deputy state’s attorney for the office. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said Acosta is the first Latino to hold the position. He will be in charge of handling major trials and coordinating cases with other prosecutors.
‘‘It is a tremendous honor to be offered a position that further allows me to help set standards for justice, to serve our diverse communities and hopefully to serve as a role model for youth who, too often, are taunted by those who would encourage them to make wrong choices for their lives,” Acosta said in a statement.
Acosta’s specialties have included prosecuting violent crime cases and gang-related criminals, which he did for the county from 2003 to 2006. He worked for the Department of Justice for two years, working on anti-gang initiatives.
‘‘It’s great to have him back,” said State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey. ‘‘We’ve been trying to get him back since he left.”
Acosta replaces former Deputy State’s Attorney Laura Gwinn, who is leaving for a position with the U.S. Department of Justice. He will serve ¼with fellow deputy Patricia Smoot.