Last Thursday, the Forward revealed a new twist in the Agriprocessors’ story – or rather, the same old story, closer to home.
It turns out that the largest kosher meat packing plant in America, the one whose Iowa-based plant was raided by immigration officials back in May, has faced similar struggles with undocumented immigrant workers at their Brookly-based warehouse. Article author, Nathaniel Popper, writes:
“The company has been locked in legal battles for the past three years over its immigrant workers, who wanted to unionize the warehouse [in Brooklyn] because of what they described as mistreatment… The brown-brick meat market in Brooklyn also houses two other kosher meat distributors, Eastern Meats and International Glatt Kosher Meats. Both of these companies have a unionized work force that has health care benefits, paid sick time and a starting salary above the minimum wage. “Every job has its downside,” said Dave Young, regional organizing director for United Food and Commercial Workers. “But for the most part, International is a decent place to work. The workers have been there for years. It doesn’t have to be like it is at Agri.”
Popper’s article deepens the evidence that Agriprocessors is a deeply flawed (at best) and unethical, consciously law-breaking (at worst) company. For example, it suggests the real possibility that the company did, in fact, know that their Iowa plant housed illegal immigrants before the raid, despite claiming ignorance.
Ironically, however, his article came out the same week as a pair of op-eds in the Jerusalem Post and The St. Louis Jewish Light, which described (in strikingly similar detail) a recent trip taken by “national leaders of the Orthodox community and the directors of kashrut agencies across the country” to Postville. The delegation was supposedly given free reign of Agriprocessors’ plant, and allowed to randomly interview workers. Their diagnosis? That everything is completely “kosher.”
The op-ed in the JPost also describes:
A group of non-Orthodox rabbis [Rabbi Morris Allen and the founders of the Hekhsher Tzedek] wants to create a new rabbinical kashrut certification, based on liberal social values instead of Halacha. Claiming to be motivated by ethics, its approach to the issue has been far from ethical – smear campaigns and demonstrations instead of the Jewish way of exploring the issues objectively and seeking solutions. It has created a battle of Jew vs. Jew, creating a show the media relishes.
Author David Eliezrie, who is the President of the Rabbinical Council of Orange County, is completely incorrect in his assessment of the Hekhsher Tzedek, which is deeply committed to both halacha and a traditional definition of kashrut. And based on this flawed interpretation of HT’s mission, I can’t help but doubt (or really dismiss) his overall assessment of the situation at Agriprocessors.
Eliezrie is all too correct, however, that the battle for Agriprocessors’ image and, more importantly, the significance and reach of kashrut and Jewish food ethics continues to rage on. The impacts of that battle can be felt in Postville, Brooklyn, and across the country.
Read Popper’s full story here.
Read the op-ed in the JPost here.