Paula Deen Protest Gains a Lot of Attention - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/10/07

Paula Deen Protest Gains a Lot of Attention

Customers had to walk through protest in order to get into Lady and Sons Customers had to walk through protest in order to get into Lady and Sons

SAVANNAH, GA--Normally on a Monday night in Savannah, you see the long line of people waiting to get in the famous Lady and Sons, but that wasn't the case this Monday. Instead customers were rushed through the crowd of protestors and kept inside, away from what was going on outside.

For more than an hour, protestors staked their turf, not leaving until they were heard.

The group was rallying support for workers at the Smithfield Pork processing plant in North Carolina; they claim the workers want a union to improve what they say are poor working conditions. See: Union Organizers Rally Outside Lady and Sons.

The reason they're in Savannah is that Paula Deen is a spokesperson for Smithfield Products.

"Paula is promoting Smithfield's product but she doesn't know the inside conditions," said John Lewis, a Smithfield employee. "If she honestly knew the abuse and treatment of employees and what they go though inside the plant, I don't think she'd promote their product."

The group held signs outside her business saying "Keep your promise Paula, meet with the workers." 

Paula Deen wouldn't speak today on camera but did release this statement:

"I'm a mother, a grandmother and a cook.  I cook for my family, my fans and my customers.  That's what I'm an expert at.  I wouldn't want an organizer waiting on tables in my restaurant, no more than they would want me messin' around at their bargaining table.  I'm just trying to run a business that was built by good folks who have been like family to me for the past 20 years.  The UFCW's attempts to use my name to further their cause is disrupting the livelihoods of my employees, who are trying to earn a living and serve our valued customers.  Here's all I need to know about this union issue:  I've talked to Smithfield employees in Tar Heel, and they told me they want this settled with a secret-ballot election.  And that will happen once the union agrees.  It's the American way, as I see it."

Lewis said they don't want a secret ballot and that's what the problem is. "I want the election, but not on Smithfield's terms and not Smithfield's way."

There were about 40 people total participating in the protest, but only a few were actual workers.

All their chanting gained a lot of attention, but not all of this was in support of their cause. Many Savannah residents came to Paula's defense.

"I think it's an embarrassment, I mean Paula is awesome. We love Paula," said Richard Sturgess of Savannah.

Ron Higgins of Savannah agreed. "She's done so much for this town and she's going to continue to do a lot for this town." Higgins went on to say, "Go picket the board, go picket the chairman, go picket Smithfield. Don't bring this to our hometown."

Reported by: Christy Hutchings, chutchings@wtoc.com

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