A slaughterhouse presents potential health and safety hazards for its workers. Union representation, unfortunately, can present economic hazards. On January 28, Keith Ludlum, former president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1208, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to conspiracy to steal more than $200,000 from the Tar Heel, N.C. union, which represents about 3,600 employees of Smithfield Foods-owned pork processing plants in North Carolina and South Carolina. The aptly-named Terry Slaughter, who served as local secretary-treasurer, pleaded guilty a year ago. Ludlum would be indicted two months later following a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Union Corruption Update covered this case following the February 2019 guilty plea of Slaughter. UFCW Local 1208 had been formed and recognized about a decade ago in the wake of an unusually bitter and prolonged campaign by union organizers against Smithfield. Keith Ludlum and Terry Slaughter were leaders in that battle. Unfortunately, once elected to their union posts in 2011, they proved less than trustworthy. In 2014, UFCW headquarters in Washington, D.C. launched an audit after a number of members complained that they were being ripped off. The audit concluded that during January 2012-March 2015, Ludlum and Slaughter had embezzled or otherwise misused more than $275,000 in member dues for a wide range of personal purposes. They did this by issuing unauthorized checks and making unauthorized purchases with a union-issued debit card. A Labor Department investigation arrived at the same conclusion: Ludlum and Slaughter had stolen a respective $216,344 and $62,509.
Slaughter was charged in January 2019, and would plead guilty that February. Ludlum, now 48, a resident of Bladenboro, N.C., would be charged in April. He faces up to 10 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. The plea deal also calls for payment of restitution and a $10,000 fine. Slaughter also has yet to be sentenced. The union has operated under a trusteeship following the release of the UFCW internal audit and the subsequent removal of the pair.