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Agriprocessors: JLC Policy Statement

This is an evolving issue. You can find the latest articles here, and latest items in the blogosphere here.

New York: May 23, 2008 -- As an organization committed to the defense of human rights, the Jewish Labor Committee has long condemned the abuse of workers by any employer for any reason. For this reason, the JLC has vigorously opposed the employment practices of Agriprocessors, Inc. since we first learned of them two years ago.

In reviewing the complaints of Agriprocessors’ employees, the JLC learned that there is a clear pattern of employer negligence and even lawlessness. Among the most troubling practices by Agriprocessors are:

• abuse of child labor laws;
• failure to pay workers the full amount of wages they have earned;
• unnecessary exposure of workers to dangerous -- even life-threatening -- working conditions;
• sexual harassment.

The JLC has also learned that Agriprocessors is actively waging a campaign of intimidation and harassment against workers who have expressed an interest in exercising their legal right to union representation.

In this atmosphere, it is clear that the recent ICE raid at Agriprocessors, though apparently legal, only buttresses the conviction shared by many undocumented workers that our government is not only indifferent to worker abuse, but works in collusion with management to penalize workers who challenge it.

While there are many differing perspectives regarding immigration reform, the American Jewish community shares a common conviction that all workers -- regardless of their immigration status -- must be free to exercise their rights and challenge employer abuses. Our belief is grounded in the collective memory of American Jewry of the gross exploitation of Jewish immigrants by employers who, like Agriprocessors, abused and robbed them of their right to dignity in the workplace.

Judaism is clear on the topic of treating workers with dignity and respect. We understand that we must treat our workers decently and justly, ethically and legally.

For this reason we call on Agriprocessors to live up to the responsibilities of corporate citizenship, end its campaign of worker abuse, and respect the rights of its employees including their legal right to union representation. Until Agriprocessors establishes its commitment to these responsibilities, we urge consumers of kosher meat products to seek alternatives to the Rubashkin labels.