Agri Star kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa had a major fire Friday night, and its security staff refused to let the fire department in the plant to fight the fire until they got approval from the plant's maintenance supervisor.
Originally published at 11:17 pm CST Sunday, 11-17-2013
Agri Star’s Security Staff Allegedly Bars Fire Department From Fighting Plant Fire On Shabbat
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Agri Star kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa had a major fire Friday night, and its security staff refused to let the fire department in the plant to fight the fire until they got approval from the plant's maintenance supervisor, two area sources familiar with the situation told FailedMessiah.com tonight.
The sources did not wish to be identified due to fear of retribution.
The fire department could have ignored the plant's security staff and broken in, but had recently been sued by a town resident who happens to be Jewish and were afraid to do so, a source said.
Instead, the fire department waited until the plant's maintenance manager arrived and allowed them to enter, a source said.
The source also had no explanation for how the fire could have burned for almost five hours before the fire department was called with no fire alarms or smoke detectors apparently sounding in the plant.
A local journalist allegedly arrived at the plant at approximately 3:00 am but was kept away by Agri Star security staff which blocked the journalist's entry into the compound and would not allow the journalist to take photographs of the fire from outside the compound gates, a source said.
The sources also complained about Agri Star's management's mistreatment of workers and, they say, mismanagement of the plant itself, with one source noting that many Agri Star workers are now only given part time hours so Agri Star does not have to pay their benefits. In addition, many workers are paid about $8 per hour, a source alleged – far below competing plants in the region.
Over the past months, sources have also been particularly harsh about Chaim Abrams – a Rubashkin relative who, they say, is acting as the plant's most senior day-to-day manager. Some allege Abrams is continuing some of the bad behavior of the Rubashkin family, which hasn't owned the plant since 2009.
The actual senior manager, Michael Landy, who holds the title of Director of Strategic Planning, Operations, Sales, Marketing, Procurement, and Finance, is allegedly often absent from the plant, a source said.
Landy's father used to own a Minnesota-based kosher slaughterhouse. Landy also owned one, but, a source alleged, "squandered it."
This raises the possibility that Landy is only serving as a front man for Chaim Abrams and other plant managers left over from the days when the Rubashkin family owned the plant. This may be a violation of the terms of the bankruptcy sale of the plant to SHF Industries. That sale was only allowed if members and close associates of the Rubashkin family were not playing senior leadership roles. It is unclear whether Chaim Abrams is one one of those banned family members/managers.
The fire is considered to be accidental, local news sources reported.
The plant suffered serious smoke damage along with fire damage to its laundry room, where the fire apparently started in dryer left running for hours unattended, and the surrounding area of the plant.
However, production may be officially resumed as early as Monday after a fire marshal inspects the plant.
Agri Star produces the Aaron's Best and Shor Habor brands of glatt kosher beef, poultry and deli products.