The Forward's Nathaniel Popper has filed a report on the newest troubles at AgriProcessors, the company that makes Aaron's Best, Aaron's, Rubashkin's, Shor HaBor, David's and other meat brands, including private label brands. The Forward's report confirms what I wrote here two weeks ago.
Workers sued AgriProcessors for refusing to pay them for the time it takes to clean and sanitize their equipment, to don safety equipment and the like. One month after filing that suit, Agriprocessors sent a letter to employees telling them that their Social Security numbers did not match numbers in the Federal system. If these workers could not rectify this situation by proving their numbers are correct, they would be terminated.
These workers are, for the most part, undocumented. Rubashkin not only hires these people – he recruits them, as is well sourced and documented in Stephen Bloom's book Postville.
The workers were allegedly told that, if they came back with new Social Security numbers they would be able to continue working, but would have to start at the bottom of the pay scale all over again.
The Forward also confirms the post I did about the National Labor Relations Board judgment against Rubashkin's Brooklyn facility. Rubashkin claimed that a vote to unionize was not valid because – suddenly, just after the vote! – Rubashkin noticed the workers were probably undocumented. How did he notice this? He searched the Social Security database to see if their numbers were valid. The NLRB found no merit in Rubashkin's claims, and decided for the workers and the union.
What Rubashkin is doing is knowingly employing and recruiting illegal workers and then using the workers' illegal status to pay them less and treat them poorly. It can be argued this is a form of slavery. Think about this carefully. Do you want to benefit from slavery? Is your glatt kosher steak or chulent worth that?
Here is an excerpt from the Forward's piece:
…The Conservative rabbis who visited the Postville plant issued a report in December, in which they said that “there are significant issues of concern at the plant, including issues of health and safety.”
At the time, the members of the Conservative committee said they were trying to work with the Rubashkins to change conditions at the plant, but there was little concrete movement on that front. Today, workers at the plant say that nothing has changed.
Morillo Jimenez told the Forward that the Rubashkins did say at one point during the past year that they would help workers straighten out their visas. He said this led many workers to stick around, but nothing ever happened.
“Things are almost exactly the same,” Morillo Jimenez said.
Among the original complaints reported by the Forward were those about the lack of pay for work performed at the beginning and end of the day. A Supreme Court decision in 2005, known as IBP v. Alvarez, affirmed past decisions that found companies to be responsible for paying workers to put on and take off protective gear — known in the business as “donning and doffing.”
The lead counsel on the lawsuit in Iowa, Brian McCafferty, said that workers at AgriProcessors are not being paid for anything other than the time that the production lines are moving. At lunch, the workers have a 30-minute unpaid break, but McCafferty said that, in practice, they get little of the break because they have to clean up before eating and then prepare again before working.
Murillo Jimenez, a named defendant in the class-action suit, said another problem at lunch is that the company provides only one microwave for the dozens of workers on break at any one time.
McCafferty said that the biggest of the alleged shortchanges comes at the end of the day.
“At the end of the day, you’re covered in blood and guts and you have to wash all of that off, and you have to wash all the equipment” he said. “According to our interviews, they’re not getting paid for any of that.”
McCafferty, who has led past successful lawsuits on the donning and doffing issue, said he believes that AgriProcessors may have to pay upward of $1 million in back pay.
Burillo and Lopez said that until now, the workers had put up with the short pay because they did not know any better.
“Here the people don’t know,” said Yovany Lopez, who de-veined beef at the plant. “They don’t know English or laws or how to read and write.”
Haredi Jews, Chabad hasidim with black fedoras and long black coats, Orthodox rabbis, take advantage of these people and exploit them. And they do it with the hechsher (imprimatur) of the Orthodox Union (OU), KAJ, Crown Heights Beis Din, Supreme Kosher (Rabbi Weissmandl), and many others.