Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Kosher Meat-Packing Giant AgriProcessors Issue Response to Federal Charges

It was almost 3 months ago when Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE) officials raided an Iowa meat-packing plant and arrested more than 300 Hispanic workers accused of a variety of immigration violations including the use of falsified Social Security numbers and document forgery.

Today the Yeshiva World News Website reports that Kosher meat-packing giant AgriProcessors issued an official response to the charges levied by the US government, denying that it knowingly hired underage Hispanic workers - even citing evidence it fired underage workers after their HR department discovered they were under 18.

Back in 1987, Brooklyn resident Aaron Rubashkin (pictured above with white beard) caused something of a stir when he purchased a large meat-packing plant in Postville, Iowa to produce Kosher meats. He sparked tensions with local residents when he brought in a mix of Hispanic workers and Lubavitch chasidim from the Hasidic Jewish communities in Crown Heights Brooklyn as well as Russia according to an Associated Press report.

It was a troubled start for AgriProcessors, the largest Kosher meat-packing plant in the United States. An empire that today controls 60% of the $300 million-a-year Kosher beef and poultry industry. They were fined $182,000 by the Iowa Division of Labor for 39 health and safety violations in March, 2008.

In 2004 a PETA member videotaped the inhumane treatment of cows in slaughter areas of the plant; The EPA was forced to clean up an Allentown, PA mill owned by Rubashkin which was later destroyed in an arson fire; He and his son Rabbi Moshe Rubashkin, who did a year in Federal prison for bank fraud, were accused of collecting worker's union dues then illegally pocketing the money from Cherry Hill Textiles, Inc.

But interestingly, the May, 2008 Postville, Iowa arrests at the AgriProcessor plant also sparked many people, including large numbers of local Postville, Iowa residents to protest the ICE tactics. A number of Iowa residents consider the immigrants hard workers and essential to the local economy which some say has boomed with their arrival.

Regardless of the Rubashkin's ethically questionable business tactics both Iowans and immigrants marched together peacefully to protest the arrests at the AgriProcessor plant.

It's a positive sign for the culturegeist when residents of America's heartland can see past GOP-created anti-immigrant hysteria to welcome the cultural changes that come with the integration of immigrant populations into our own culture.

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