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.

About the author

themiddle

48 Comments

  • “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.”

    Groundbreaking journalism there! 🙂 Next on the news, “Why they hate us?”.

    On the bright side, there’s about 400 excuses to get people off of welfare in Iowa.

    I bet PETA didn’t think they’d be the catalyst for sending 400 illegals home.

  • After being treated improperly by Rubashkins, it appears from the reporting in Iowa that the Feds are also continuing this trend of abuse.

    Why Rubashkins you ask TM? It may be because they are Jewishly owned, but it doesn’t matter. Its a lot of bad karma dude.

  • If Middle suggests that the raid was a naked instance of anti-Semitism, we eagerly await his ongoing investigative effort in that direction. The fact is the US is so awash with illegal workers that any crackdown is, or can be spun as, selective enforcement of the law. Indeed, any arrest is by definition a matter of selective enforcement, and any prosecution is likewise selective.

    Here, (a) 400 arrests is a shitload of arrests, and (b) post-9/11, the Feds are more sensitive to forged Socials and other fraudulent forms of ID. Ownership painted a big target on their own backs.

  • “I bet PETA didn’t think they’d be the catalyst for sending 400 illegals home.”

    I read in a Des Moines Register article that a Guatemalan woman initially told ICE that she was from Mexico so that it would be easier for her to cross the border again. The incentive of a job, any job, makes it irresistible for people to leave families and risk life and limb over and over to come here.

    Places like Agri and probably thousands and thousands of other businesses are happy to exploit these people. Accepting the problem as a fact of life and necessary for business and the economy is not the answer. We need immigration reform. Working as an illegally-hired slave employee isn’t an innocent way to earn a living- it’s human trafficking, for God’s sake.

  • TM thinks Agriprocessors has been a target because they deserve to be a target, Tom. TM, however, isn’t completely naive in the ways of the world and would like to know whether those long sidecurls, black suits and black hats in the middle of Iowa made somebody think about those guys a little more than the other guys down the road in the overalls and proper business suits. I would have asked the same question if they were identifiably Mormon or Muslim.

  • I mean, I want to be very clear that when I see a Rubashkin product, I go out of my way not to buy it. I haven’t bought pork instead, but that’s only because I don’t buy pork. Those guys have tainted the idea of kosher meat for me in a way that’s hard to express and if they get raided, they deserve it. But in the meat processing industry, they are far from the only employers of illegal labor. Nobody who doesn’t have to do this work does it.

  • Maybe in the future we ought adopt a practice that both rabbinic certification and USDA organic certification are required to consume meat?

    There’s more than one organic farm with kosher meat output; if people patronize them more the prices will fall considerably.

  • “We need immigration reform.”

    I agree. And we also need to enforce our existing immigration laws, and from what it looks like, ICE is actually doing in this case.

    Look, I am an immigrant, my parents waited for 6 years to get our entry visa, and then we waited for another 6 years to earn our citizenship. Life was not easy back then; I remember barely seeing my father while he worked 3 or 4 different manual labor/ odd jobs while my mom went back to Medical School, but anything beat living in the FSU.

    I don’t begrudge illegals the fact that they want a better life for their families. Heck, if I was a Mexican, I would try to come here too. I would try legally, but if that wasn’t happening, then illegally. Laws are not as important to me as my family’s survival, so I understand. I have in the past, hired illegals for odd jobs and not just Mexicans so I’m part of the problem, so to speak.

    However, I am not a Mexican nor Ukrainian, I am a tax-paying American, and I need to look at the issue from that perspective. While I may be empathetic to the illegal immigrant’s plight, I also believe “fair” has to be fair to all, meaning, I should not have to provide healthcare and social services for every person on earth that was born in an unlucky place and whose government fails to provide even a bare minimum of quality of life. It’s just not possible, no matter how empathetic we are, but it’s not our “responsibility” either. My altruism has limits. On top of that, despite the narrative of the nice, gentle, hardworking illegal aliens, there are also many with bad intentions infiltrating this country, whether they are Mexicans in gangs or manufacturing amphetamines, Russian thugs in the NY Russian Mob, or Lebanese females working at the FBI and CIA and passing info back to Hezbollah.

    My first job was at an Indian owned Internet start-up. Most of the employees were H1 and H3 Visa holders and here legally. Talk about indentured servants! But at least the company and/or they paid taxes, could be tracked in case of injury or crime, and the company had to treat them fairly because they were under the protection of our government.

    I guess there are no easy answers, but the status quo is unacceptable. The irony is that Mexico has built a wall on its southern border to keep Central Americans out of Mexico. The joke is, “how bad has it got in Central America that people are illegally sneaking into Mexico?” Besides reforming our laws, we need to put WAY more pressure on Mexico to stem corruption and fix their economy.

  • Oh Kelsey, I’ve read so much about Agriprocessors on Failed Messiah that I stopped reading Failed Messiah because he was repeating himself. I said both in the post and in the comments that the Rubashkins seem to have drawn the ire of many with their behavior. But my comment #7 elaborates on the topic.

  • TM,

    This works both ways. In Stephen G. Bloom’s, “Postville,” Bloom discusses how some of the Jewish employees sent to the plant to work from all over the nation (but especially from NY) were sometime sent there instead of yeshiva because there were behavioral problems. Additionally, not all of these people were sufficiently respectful of their gentile neighbors, whose town they had moved into. While this was a minority of the population, it did affect relations to some extent, and I think that is understandable.

    But I don’t think that is the issue here anyway at all.

  • Middle, if I understand you, if a Jewish-looking/seeming person is arrested, that alone triggers a bona fide suspicion of anti-Semitism. If this is all you’ve got, I think it’s irresponsible.

    And let’s use our common sense. What’s more likely to draw the INS’s attention: a few men dressed as 19th C. Polish noblemen, or several hundred brown-skinned Central Americans who, it’s safe to say, stand out from the corn-fed Iowans at the general store downtown?

  • Let’s see if I understand this:

    1. The Feds have multiple independent sources that document identity theft and social security fraud at Agri.

    2. The feds have credible reports of child labor at Agri.

    3. The feds have credible reports of illegal workers being paid $5 per hour, of being coerced to live in substandard housing owned by Rubashkin, of rents being raised monthly joined with the threat of firing and exposure to immigration authorities if illegals moved to non-Rubashkin housing.

    4. Both the Iowa Department of Labor and the US Department of labor are running an investigation separate from Immigration into child labor, illegal restraint of labor organizing and other related crimes.

    5. The Rubashkin family has a long history of illegal labor practices documented with NLRB rulings against them.

    You have all this (and more that I did not bother to list, including the fake OSHA report issued last year that “cleared” Agriprocessors) and TM thinks the raid is “antisemitic”?

    TM thinks Agriprocessors has been a target because they deserve to be a target, Tom. TM, however, isn’t completely naive in the ways of the world and would like to know whether those long sidecurls, black suits and black hats in the middle of Iowa made somebody think about those guys a little more than the other guys down the road in the overalls and proper business suits.

    What made the feds look hard at Agri was the fake OSHA report, paying the illegals $5 per hour, child labor law violations, Agri-run ID theft and social security fraud, etc.

    Others also employ illegal workers, but they do not exploit them, harass them and hurt them they way Agri is alleged to have done. And they do not defraud the social security system and workers comp as Agri is also alleged ot have done.

    Agri is the worst not because feds saw peyes and beards. Agri earned it.

  • TM thinks Agriprocessors has been a target because they deserve to be a target, Tom. TM, however, isn’t completely naive in the ways of the world and would like to know whether those long sidecurls, black suits and black hats in the middle of Iowa made somebody think about those guys a little more than the other guys down the road in the overalls and proper business suits. I would have asked the same question if they were identifiably Mormon or Muslim.

    And you can rest assured that these kinds of raids happen at meatpacking plants in the midwest no matter who owns the plants. In December ’06 there was a 6-state raid on Swift meatpacking plants (including one in Iowa) that netted 1300 illegals.

    We also buy Wise organic kosher meat, with Empire as a fall-back, and avoid Rubashkin’s/Aarons’ Best whenever possible.

  • You want a Jew who’s being unfairly persecuted, there’s Prime Minister Olmert.

  • Olmert should have resigned long ago.

    But actually, if you want Jews who are unfairly persecuted, I would explore the situation with Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, formerly of AIPAC.

    https://jewlicious.com/index.php?p=623

    http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:k3ZSiIzJCtoJ:freedomunderground.org/view.php%3Fv%3D3%26t%3D3%26aid%3D12293+jerusalem+post+weissman+Szady&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us

    To be fair, I also think Pollard has been persecuted unfairly at this point. He was properly punished for spying, but at this point, considering there is still material out there about his trial that hasn’t seen the light of day, it’s been excessive. He has served a longer sentence than enemy spies who have brought about deaths of agents. What could he have possibly done to merit this treatment and why is it a secret after so many years? Then again, I don’t think it’s because he’s Jewish, I think it’s because he’s a warning to Israel not to play around.

  • The Pollard case, as you describe it, involves several issues: the mostly secret nature of the evidence against him; his severe initial sentence; and the failure of successive presidents to spring him. My guess is that Bush will commute his sentence (rather than pardon him), with the understanding that he’ll move to Israel following his release.

  • Interesting. I don’t think Bush will do it. Just like Iraq, there are certain gifts he’s planning to leave to the next President.

  • If the next president is McCain, Bush is starting early in Israel with his, uh, veiled attack on Obama.

  • Why are you so shocked? What did I say?

    Tom, what do you mean “if?” By the time the Republicans are done with Obama, we will all be looking back fondly at how “tough” Hillary was on him.

    I have to admit that watching the last few weeks have only strengthened my impressions of her and weakened support for Obama. She is a much stronger candidate and he isn’t quite ready. I fail to understand how he ended up running a better campaign but somebody should pick up that guy Axelrod who is running the show because he’s solid.

  • TM, I don’t know…I thought there would be more of a Zionist/non-Zionist division on this issue, that’s all. No offense meant.

  • Middle– money and organization in the caucus states, plus (yes) a news media that had had enough of the Clintons and viewed him as great copy. By the time she came on, it was too late, or so we were told.

  • Trader Joe’s carries Rubashkin’s and they have corporate policies about not buying from vendors with unfair labor practices or products that have a negative effective on the environment . They have stopped buying any products from China all together because of alleged human rights violations. Anyone with any complaints about Rubashkin’s can make them aware of the problems by emailing Trader Joes at their “Contact Us” link and insist that they look into it and take action.

    On the other hand, Trader Joe’s is currently owned by a family trust set up by German billionaire Theo Albrecht, who served in the German Army, so you might not want to shop there anyway.

    Gotta choose your battles on this one, as for me…my need for the large selection of fresh hummus overrides my grudge against Nazis, but I wouldn’t buy Rubaskin’s there or anywhere else.

  • Tom, that’s a fair assessment of what happened. I’m still trying to understand why the NY Times had a daily hit piece on her. They did it again with an editorial the other day about how she’s brought racism into the campaign. The fact that after a lifelong relationship with the black community, she is finding no votes there isn’t considered to be a racist play by the Obama campaign but if she dares to mention what the exit polls are showing, it’s racism. They did endorse her, which is funny because they proceeded to bash her incessantly while Obama got a pass, even after Wright became an issue.

    I really do feel that she paid a price for the media’s behavior towards Bill. They are tired of him and skeptical about his intentions. Somehow, this became her burden to shoulder.

    I keep asking myself where’s the beef with the complaints about her and it keeps coming back to bullshit declarations about how she’s not likeable and her vote on Iraq. They didn’t and still can’t touch her on policy, intellect, determination, competence or capacity to lead. She’s shown in the last few weeks that in all those areas, she is a better candidate than Obama.

    I think being a woman hurt her far more than Obama being a black man, particularly because it’s the Democrats voting here. I don’t think it will play out the same in a national election.

  • Don’t worry, Chutzpah, the Albrecht brothers (owners of Aldi) are some of the biggest philanthropists over here. BTW, those guys of that age back then had to decide whether to join the Reichswehr or getting executed at a death camp.

  • Middle, Obama’s racial background didn’t hurt, it helped. Until Rev. Wright blew up, Obama was able to position himself as a post-racial candidate. That’s by the boards now, unfortunately. His coalition at the moment is upscale latte liberals and African-Americans. In any other year, that means he loses, but he’s got so much going for him with the struggling economy, war etc., he’s got to be viewed as a strong favorite to win the election.

    Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if the country voted for divided government– dealing Congressional Republicans another big defeat while electing McCain on the basis of national security experience.

  • I second Tom’s ( and Ferraro’s) opinion, had Barack been a white guy (not just half white), he wouldn’t have ever made it past the first debate. All he’s got is identity politics and his political personality. Other than that, he hasn’t had a “new” idea or policy that hasn’t been thought of by other far left statists like Kucinich or any other guys with lots of anti-semites as friends. One of my American Jew Liberal friends just called and asked why Bush was talking about Obama in that speech, when in fact, he never mentioned any names. Many believe he was talking about Carter, but either way, Obama has completely flip-flopped on his stance on Iranian negotiations and is trying pretend HE is the victim. Can some Obama advocate explain to me the difference betweem “no pre-conditions” and “conditional” as well as “terrorists” versus “terror sponsoring states”? Sounds like a bunch of politicking by the “new types of politics” candidate of hope and change.

    After this Democrat fight, Hillary went up a notch in my book; now she’s at notch 1.

  • Thanks Froylein, good to know! I know Trader Joe’s is very supportive of all the local Jewish Temples in the neighborhoods the stores are by donating to their fund-raising events. They are also very respectful of Kosher dietary laws. I think they need to hear from the anti-Agri people and will hope someone will write a form letter outlining the fact that many people can then send into Joe’s and other Rubaskin distribrutors. (I’d do it myself but I have enough trouble with the Orthodox and my battles against landlords within the Eruv.)

    Ironically, the Albrecht’s bought the Joe’s for the famous # of 6 million and it is worth 7 billion $ today.

  • The Albrecht’s have got good business sense. They pay their apprentices and employees above average wages over here. Products that do not sell get removed quickly. They more or less invented the supermarket system, where goods are not individually stocked into shelves but in display boxes, which cuts the cost. Also, a wide range of their products are brandname products sold under a different name as they co-operate with brandname suppliers. Also, like their bigger competitors, they offer a range of low-price non-food items semi-weekly that are sold just above production cost as they’ve figured this out to be a way of attracting customers. I hope to buy this next Wednesday.

  • You don’t make the Forbes Top 20 Richest People in the World list without good business sense. Everyone please ask Trader Joe’s to drop David’s and Rubaskin’s by writing about their disgusting practices to

    http://traderjoes.com/general_feedback_form.aspx

    and then come stop in to Joe’s to check out all the Kosher certified products and awesome HUMMUS!

  • TJ’s rules! Many of those German business practices are in place in the US stores, froylein. chutzpah, don’t forget to pick up some black bean dip (fat free!) next time you’re there.

  • So are you going to write to them about Agri Mr. Morrissey? Publish the letter here so we can all send it.

    Funny how I love anything with the initials TJ!

  • Wait a second. David’s is Rubashkin’s? What’s the connection?

    This talk of Obama’s post-racialism is nonsense. Obama was always a racial candidate. Has been from the start. It’s not really his fault, perhaps, but there’s no way he could have avoided it.

    There is a complete double-standard when it comes to voting along racial lines: whites who do it are racists and blacks who do it aren’t. Obama’s support among blacks has been above 90% (and I imagine that many people think “What’s wrong with the other 10%? Are they racists or something, not voting for one of their own?”). The fact that he has won many of the primaries precisely because blacks have voted for him in record numbers is clealry seen as a good thing by almost everyone, or at least perfectly understandable and nothing worth commenting on. The same thing with women voting for Hillary. Blacks are clearly expected to automatically vote for their own, as are women. But let a white man vote for a white man and watch the knives come out.

    But why? Simple: one racist/sexist turn deserves another. White-on-black racism is considered to be unjustified and something for which whites must pay a price (a not unreasonable position, but that’s a subject for a different thread), while the black response to that unjustified racism, while just as racist in some cases (Jeremiah Wright), is considered reasonable and justified. “You hated us for no reason? Fine, we’ll hate you back, but that’s not racism because we’re justified in our hate, while you were not.”

    Thus, whites who vote for whites are assumed to be racists when they have the opportunity to vote for a black candidate but don’t. So whites who want to prove (to themselves, mainly) that they’re not racists see voting for Obama as a way to prove that they have transcended race, not in the sense that they do not notice a candidate’s race and take it into account, but precisely because they do take it into account and it doesn’t matter: “Look at me! I actually voted for a black man! I have transcended race! I am a good person!”. This isn’t transcending race. This is pandering to it.

    I’m not going to vote for Obama because he’s a weasel who surrounds himself with a racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel crowd and because he would probably be an appeaser who would make Jimmy Carter look like a piker. I don’t care whether he’s white, black, green or purple. End of story.

    Oh, and he’s a whiner, too. If you want people to lay off your wife, don’t send her out to make speeches as your surrogate. Pansy.

    BTW, have you heard the rumor that McCain might pick Joe Lieberman as his running mate? Now that would make things interesting.

    I can see the bumper stickers now:

    “Vote McCain! Vote ZOG!”

  • I’m also unclear as to whether David’s Best is an Agri brand, but whether they are or are not, they are probably up to the same misdeeds.

    The photos of the Potsville raid were very telling…the white church members reached out to help the families of the illegal workers, while the Jews, who benefited from the illegal work the most, went about their every day lives. The Churches provided refuge and meals to the detainees while the Orthodox Community prepared their cholent for Shabbos.

    Legal or not, these workers are still human beings towards which the Jews appeared to have profitted from and yet showed no compassion towards. This does not inspire me to think of them as a “light unto the nations”.

    I compare the relationship between employers and illegal workers to that of johns and prostitutes. The illegal workers and prostitutes are always the object of contempt and scorn, while the employers and johns are criticized but much more lightly prosecuted for crimes that took both parties to commit. It should be the reverse because the illegal workers/prostitutes are from the impoverished class and are doing what they need to survive, whereas the employers are getting rich and the johns are “getting off” in more more ways than one.

    This meat-eating Republican who practiced Management side Labor Relations is evolving into a vegetarian Democrat Union supporter after all I’ve seen. From Egalitarian Conservative Jew to Orthodox to “not pleased with the Orthos”, it seems I should not think about or discuss any of the these issues if I ever want to find a nice man to just kick back have a glass of kosher or nonkosher wine and listen to some music during or not during the Omer with….YIKES!

  • That’s it. I’ve had it. This story makes me want to puke.

    How can people who came to this country to escape the Holocaust and who have been afforded every possible accommodation to practice their religion freely take such advantage of our Labor Laws?
    Were they too busy learning Torah to even think about what they were doing to their workers or was it just that the workers are “goyim’ so they can be treated like the animals they are slaughtering.

    Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in 1906 …somebody should mail a copy to the management of Agriprocessors and tell them to try to squeeze it in between shirium, minyanim, siyums, vorts, devar torahs, and other such “learning” of great importance. I suppose they have “learn”” all the time because they have not one shred of common sense or common human decency.

    I can tell you that the world does not stand on the learning of these people.

    DISGUSTING!

  • Oh, and my Trader Joe’s dropped Rubaskin’s product due to “quality issues”. Please let me know if anyone sees it in any of the other TJ’s.

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