And it gets even worse than this. Agriprocessors flack Menachem Lubinsky, organizer of today's comapny-paid rabbi junket to Agriprocessors, compares Agriprocessors' current situation to…
…the Dreyfus Trial. Again, the antisemitism card is played by Orthodox Jews supporting Orthodox criminals.
The Jewish Week reports (and does so without fact-checking what Lubinsky claims for accuracy, for example the "free rent"and food packages spin; this is what happens when Larry Cohler-Esses isn't working on a piece):
For Kosher Meat Giant, A 'Dreyfus' Trial
Rebuffing allegations and struggling to resume production, Agriprocessors claims bias against chasidic outsiders.
by Debra Nussbaum Cohen
If answers aren't exactly forthcoming from Postville, well then, people are going to Postville to try and seek them out.
A veritable parade of Jews — busloads from the Midwest last Sunday for a rally on behalf of immigrant rights, and this week a group of Orthodox rabbis traveling at Agriprocessors's expense on what is being called "a fact-finding mission" — went looking for answers about the conditions in which their kosher meat is produced.
As bad press for Agriprocessors mounted —two public relations firms it hired when its current wave of problems first hit no longer represent the company — the nation's largest kosher meat manufacturer was struggling to return to normal after a raid by immigration authorities in May.
While no members of Agriprocessors's management would agree to an interview, "on the advice of legal," said company spokesman Menachem Lubinsky, it is clear that the company is anxious to repair its image in the Jewish community, in what Lubinsky calls its "core community" of kosher meat consumers — the Orthodox.
"There's starting to be some pressure in the more right-wing Orthodox community," said Shmuley Yanklowitz, co-director of Uri L'Tzedek, a progressive Orthodox group focused on ethics. "A month or two ago they were very uninformed, but we're finding now that more and more people are showing interest in responding and being informed" about what's happening at Agriprocessors.
Jewish groups including his, the Conservative movement-based Hekhsher Tzedek and community-based groups focused on progressive causes, like Chicago's Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and Jewish Community Action of St. Paul, Minn., have been speaking out about the allegations of unethical, as well as illegal, workplace practices at Agriprocessors. Allegations include that the company used under-age workers in its slaughterhouses and forced staffers to work under dangerous conditions.
No charges have been brought against Agriprocessors owner Aaron Rubashkin or other senior managers.
But 389 workers were arrested in May by federal immigration authorities for being here illegally. Some were also charged with identity theft. Most, from Mexico and Guatemala, are serving five-month sentences and will be deported at the end of their incarceration. Four dozen mothers of young children were released to house arrest while wearing monitoring devices. They are being supported by a local Catholic church, which is supplying them with food and medical care.
Agriprocessors has donated boxes of meat to those workers, said Lubinsky, and is allowing them to live in company-provided housing without rent, he said.
It is the company, Lubinsky said, that is the victim.
"We are in the midst of a Dreyfus trial in the media," said Lubinsky, referring to Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish member of the French military who was falsely convicted of treason in late 19th-century France, targeted because he was a Jew.
Agriprocessors's "PR nightmare began the day they moved into Postville. These Lubavitchers, these outsiders, are convenient targets," Lubinsky told The Jewish Week. "Plants all over the country make mistakes but they don't get killed. Nobody boycotts McDonald's or tells them they have to change when illegal immigrants are arrested there.
"From the first moment they came to Postville they were convenient targets, judged by a standard very few others were," he said. They were not given the leeway another large company would be given."
Agriprocessors hired an external compliance officer, Jim Martin, who is a St. Louis-based criminal defense attorney and formerly worked as a federal prosecutor.
In an interview with The Jewish Week Tuesday, Martin said that the company "has instituted a series of steps related to the employment of individuals so we are in full compliance with immigration rules and regulations."
Agriprocessors has hired an outside consultant to evaluate compliance with federal safety regulations, and has also recently hired a full time safety officer who will be hiring additional associates, according to Martin.
The company has implemented a bilingual anonymous tip line, Martin told The Jewish Week. It is advertised around the plant, urging workers to call it with any safety or other concerns. An outside contractor receives those calls and then refers them back to him, Martin said.
But he refused to say how many calls there have been, if any, what they were about and how they were resolved.
"It's not my role to answer detailed question about how the day-to-day operation goes," Martin said.
While he is in Postville only occasionally, he will be there on Thursday to meet with the contingent of Orthodox rabbis.
Uri L'Tzedek's leaders say that Martin has not been as forthcoming about improvements as he promised he would when, on July 8, the group withdrew its boycott of the company's products. Nearly 2,000 people signed onto the boycott.
"Suspending the boycott was predicated on Jim Martin's work, based on his hiring and transparency with us," said Ari Hart, co-director of the group. "They're not transparent to the degree that we're satisfied.
"We are concerned about the lack of information that has been kept confidential about the changes at the company. They have been very reticent to share with the general public changes that they're making."
Martin said, in response, "I have told them as I've told you that the details of how we execute our compliance efforts are not a matter of public discussion."
Hart is going to Postville this week when the rabbis brought by Agriprocessors are there.
"We want to make sure they're exposed to the population affected, not just jargon from the company," said Yanklowitz.
Note that Martin, who is rarely on site to see the abuses first hand (so much easier to deny those abuses when one doesn't have to look at them first) will be on site today to shill for Agriprocessors.
Martin is a fraud, another Bush Administration crony who cashed in his "public service" ticket to shill for the criminals he was once supposed to prosecute.
Jim Martin is a good example of what is wrong with Republican politics in the age of Abramoff, DeLay and George W. Bush.
As for Ari Hart's trip to Postville today to try to get Lubinsky's rabbis to open their eyes, while I endorse the desire to bring change, I do not endorse Hart's efforts.
As well-meaning as Hart and Yanklowitz are, they are in way over their heads.
They lifted the boycott prematurely for weak reasons, and they have misjudged both the company and the Orthodox rabbinate at every step.
They do not have the training or the experience to do the job, and their failures – like lifting the boycott – hurt real people on the ground, every day.
I must make clear this criticism is not based on their age or their status as students – it is based on their track record.
As a student activist, my friends and I were once confronted with the following decision, told in a somewhat abbreviated manner below:
We were about to take an action regarding Ethiopian Jews. Yitzhak Shamir, then the Prime Minister of Israel, asked us not to do it. I asked his representative why Shamir wanted us to stop. What was the specific reason?
Shamir's representative answered, "The price will go up."
I asked if this "price" was to be paid in dollars or in lives.
The answer was dollars.
We did not stop. I told Shamir's representative that years of Israeli inaction combined with years of government lies about what they were doing left us with no choice. If it cost the government more money, so be it.
But there was no way we would stop.
I tell this story because I was personally involved in it. and know it first hand. But there are many other stories I know of, some in which I was directly involved, some not, where student activists were forced to make difficult decisions and did so based on honest criteria.
And never did those criteria involve deciding that providing the Jewish community with non-essential items trumped human life, or that protecting an abusive party (in our case, Agriprocessors) justified tolerating mistreatment (even at a reduced level) of other human beings.
But that is exactly what Uri L'Tzedek did, valuing the supply of kosher meat and the viability of Agriprocessors over the workers abused by Agriprocessors and the Rubashkin family.
It is true Jim Martin sold these kids a bill of goods. And it is true that various rabbis close to these kids wanted that boycott to end.
Life is full of hard choices. Sometimes you have tell the rabbi you follow he is wrong.
This was one of those times.
UPDATE 7-31-08 1:00 PM CDT – Ari Hart of Uri L'tzedek writes:
our partners in postville (father paul, other people at st. bridgets, and the good people fund) asked us to come later because they were concerned we would be a distraction from a meeting they were trying to arrange between the NCYI rabbis and the workers, and also because the lawyers for the families were going to be in town and they felt that everything would be stretched thin. we wanted to be there today, but we also wanted to respect our partners on the ground. we're arranging a trip in the next week, week and half.