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On the Latest Developments re Agriprocessors

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On Sept. 10, 2008, Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, issued the following statement on the latest developments regarding the Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse and meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa:

The 9,311 child labor violations issued by the Iowa Attorney General yesterday confirms our opposition to Agriprocessors’ workplace practices for over two years.

The Jewish Labor Committee hopes that all appropriate legal penalties be applied to the firm. The public must know that the need to respect all labor laws – including, but not limited to, child labor laws -- is taken seriously by the relevant government agencies as well as by employers, and that violations of these laws will be taken seriously as well.

We wholeheartedly support the Orthodox Union when it stated that it would withdraw its kosher certification of the company within two weeks unless new management is hired. Whatever faith consumers might have had in the current management is gone. It is time for the Rubashkins to step aside and allow responsible employers to run the plant and continue production to provide a quality product for consumers, including, of course, those in our community who follow kosher dietary laws.

Since the ICE raid in mid-May, nearly 400 Agriprocessors workers and their families have suffered from broken homes, imprisonment, destitution and deportation. Community life in Postville, IA, has been disrupted for months before the employers were taken to task for their role in this scandal. We question now, as we did after the raid, why it was that serious investigations into Agriprocessors’ negligence and lawlessness was preceded by – and delayed by – such a massive ICE raid.

It is possible that additional charges relating to violations of OSHA and EPA regulations, as well as claims of sexual harassment and dangerous working conditions, may soon follow. We reiterate our hope that justice be done in these cases as well. This is necessary so that the legitimate needs of the workforce, the company, the consumers and the community-at-large are all met.

We believe that ultimately the best way to ensure the rights of the workers at Agriprocessors is through a union contract. As the liaison agency linking the organized Jewish community and the labor movement, we offer our help in any way possible.


Child Labor - Still a Scourge in U.S.A. {Photo probably taken during May 1, 1909 labor parade in New York City. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).}