Rabbi Shlomo Riskin needs to do a little more research. If he does, he'll quickly find that…
…Uri L'Tzedek has little factual support for its conclusion, and that the boycott was ended prematurely:
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Explains his Involvement with Uri L'Tzedek in a July 18 Letter Sent to the Jerusalem Post (posted on Uri L'Tzedek's website)
In the July 9th online edition of the Jerusalem Post, [Chabad rabbi and sometime spokesperson] Rabbi David Eliezrie wrote a far reaching article about the controversy concerning the Iowa based leader in kosher meat production Agriprocessors. Since my name – or at least my former name (I am identified as Rabbi Steven Riskin whereas 25 years ago I officially changed my name to Shlomo Riskin) is mentioned, it behooves me to explain my involvement and present stance regarding Agriprocessors.
Uri L’Zedek is a burgeoning Orthodox Social Action Group, paralleling Maagalei Zedek in Israel, which insist that Kashrut and Yashrut, ritual concern and ethical sensitivity, must go hand in hand. I am proud to say that one of the leaders of Uri L’Zedek is a beloved student of mine Shmuly Yanklowitz, and in the classes that I give on Yoreh Deah to our Ohr Torah Stone semicha students, I constantly stress the biblical emphasis on compassion as a major source for the laws of kashrut (“Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk”, “For the soul is the blood of the animal”, etc.) as well as the teachings of Rav Kook in his Sefer Hazon regarding the moral ambiguity in eating meat. Hence when Shmuly informed me of the findings concerning Agriprocessors, and when I could not find a clear denial by the leaders of Agriprocessors I gave Shmuly the right to sign me on to his petition. When a leading rabbi, whom I deeply respect and consider a beloved friend told me that he feels that Agriprocessors were maligned, I asked him to please supply me with corroborating facts and I would then publish a retraction. I never received such facts.
At the same time, I am pleased to report that Shmuly has found the leadership of Agriprocessors cooperating and attempting to right whatever wrongs were going on in the plant. For that reason it was correctly decided to remove the boycott and give Agriprocessors every possibility of correcting the situation.
I believe that a strengthened Agriprocessors – in every area of halakhic concern - can only result in a true Kiddush Hashem and increased appreciation of Jewish Law.
When Rabbi Shlomo Riskin wrote those words, Agriprocessors workers were still buying their own safety equipment, the vast majority of new hires had left in disgust, and workers were still complaining about short pay and missing bonuses, along with slumlord rents. And they many were getting most of their food from the Catholic Church's food shelf, because Agriprocessors and Jacobson Staffing made no provisions for them.
If Rabbi Riskin did not know these facts – and that seems to be the case – then one man is responsible for that omission: Shmuly Yanklowitz.
Perhaps this was an oversight on Shmuly's part, perhaps not. Either way, it would seem Rabbi Riskin's endorsement of the boycott's lifting was based on incorrect information. As such, Rabbi Riskin should insist Uri L'Tzedek resume the boycott – unless Rabbi Riskin is satisfied with the cosmetic changes made at Agriprocessors.
If so, he can join a long line of Orthodox Jews who care more about their kosher meat than they do about the human beings who produce it.
[Hat Tip: Stephen Mendelsohn.]