This was to be expected.
First it was the government leveling charges at Agriprocessors, then it was PETA with some video that turned many Jews into vegetarians. Now we’re back to the government which launched a huge raid against Agriprocessors, the largest raid ever in Iowa. Um, actually, the largest in US history.
Meat processing is very hard on the body and it is also quite dangerous. Like other unskilled work, the pay tends to be low. Many of the workers in this business, not just at Agriprocessors, are new immigrants to the US who lack other skills and need to make a living even if it threatens their health. It seems that many of the workers at Agriprocessors were more than just foreigners, they were foreigners using false ID cards to work.
A federal search warrant said immigration officials have filed almost 700 complaints about immigration violations and criminal activity by workers at the Postville plant. The activity spans a two-year period, and some workers face multiple allegations.
Federal officials allege that as many as three-fourths of the company’s workers at the end of last year were using fraudulent Social Security numbers.
But that isn’t all of it, there are also some other rumors and stories flying around:
Last November, the search warrant said, ICE agents interviewed a former Agriprocessors supervisor who said some employees were running a methamphetamine lab in the plant and were bringing weapons to work.
Another source alleged worker abuse, officials said in the warrant. In one case, a supervisor covered the eyes of an employee with duct tape and struck him with a meat hook.
The worker, who had entered the country illegally from Guatemala, was not seriously injured. He declined to report the incident for fear of losing his job, the warrant said.
Another plant worker told federal officials that undocumented workers were paid $5 an hour for their first few months before receiving a pay increase to $6 per hour. The minimum wage in Iowa is $7.25 an hour.
Four hundred of the plant’s almost 1000 workers were arrested. Numerous businesses in the region also closed down because their owners or workers decided that keeping a low profile might be prudent at a time when the gov’t is going after illegals.
You can read numerous stories about the situation here.
The question is obviously how much the owners, the Hasidic Rubashkin family, and their company’s managers knew about their employees’ illegal status. I rarely buy Rubashkin products because of the PETA tapes showing the cruelty of their slaughtering methods. After being exposed, the company fought back by getting a rabbi who was also a kashrut supervisor for them to conduct an “investigation” which “exonerated” them from any wrongdoing. An Orthodox body then gave their stamp of approval because, apparently, slaughtering cows brutally doesn’t disqualify meat from being kosher. On this basis, I have to think that the company was aware of its employees’ illegal status.
Having written the above, I do have one small question. Wages across Iowa are similar fom meat plant to meat plant. Stories I’ve read about this industry suggest that many of its workers are illegal aliens passing under the radar.
If that’s the case, then why was this plant the target of the raid? Does the Hasidic link have anything to do with it? I guess too many foreigners congregating in one place are enough to draw the curiosity of the Feds.
Hat tip to Larry at MyJewishBooks.com.