Truth, Agriprocessors' style:
Guest column — Agriprocessors: We're taking the high road
BY CHAIM ABRAHAMS • AUGUST 26, 2008
Gov. Chet Culver in his Sunday op-ed essay urged Agriprocessors to "take the high road" and join the family of responsible businesses in Iowa. We believe that we are indeed on course to take the "high road."
Agriprocessors moved to Iowa two decades ago precisely because the company had a vision: to create a source of kosher meat that could supply the nation's growing demand for kosher foods with healthy, good-quality and reasonably priced meat. Agriprocessors chose to locate its plant in Iowa because of what the state had and continues to offer. Iowa offers honest, hard-working people - people who work for our company and people who supply the company with products and services.
With the grace of God, Agriprocessors flourished in the state of Iowa while benefiting the citizens of Iowa. It provided jobs to many hundreds of people and stimulated economic growth not only in Postville but throughout the state. Agriprocessors is very much a part of Iowa's dream, creating a value-added product from the great beef in Iowa for export nationwide.
Agriprocessors fully subscribes to the governor's call to begin to take the high road and join the family of responsible businesses in Iowa since it wholeheartedly believes that it is doing precisely that. In just the past few months, it has taken a number of important steps that certainly fulfill that challenge.
While the governor's first bill in office was to raise the minimum wage from $6.25 per hour to $7.25 an hour, Agriprocessors has raised its minimum starting wage from $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour (for workers with skills). The company has also instituted affordable and quality health care for all of its workers, another prime concern of the governor.
Agriprocessors regrets that some of its employees may have used fraudulent documents to lie about their age. Agriprocessors has been in contact with the Iowa Department of Labor ever since it raised the issue early this year. It repeatedly asked the department to advise it of underage workers who may have fraudulently presented documents to work at the plant. The department did its own audit in April and did not find any underage workers. The company policy is clear: "No one under 18 may be employed at the plant." When it did learn of several underage workers in the plant, they were immediately dismissed.
Agriprocessors hired Jim Martin, a former U.S. attorney in Missouri, as its new compliance officer to ensure that the company is in complete compliance with all federal and state regulations. It has implemented safety training sessions for all of its supervisors and for all of its workers. The company means it: Safety is its No. 1 concern. Everyone at Agriprocessors knows that, its officers, employees on the line and supervisors.
Agriprocessors hired a former Occupational Safety and Health Administration official to monitor its compliance with all federal and state safety requirements. Agriprocessors is a modern and safe place to work, as anyone who has visited the plant recently can plainly see. It has also hired an experienced staffing company to do its hiring, and it is voluntarily using the new federal e-Verify system.
The water-treatment problem that the governor raises was a problem years ago not only for the company's plant but also for another business as well. While the other company cut and ran, Agriprocessors stayed the course and invested heavily in a high-technology water-treatment plant that is a model of environmental friendliness and is the envy of companies across the country and, indeed, throughout the world. Ironically, Agriprocessors never received any credit for this bold action.
We are pleased to invite the governor to visit the plant, to meet with our leadership and to see the truth firsthand. In such a meeting, we would be delighted to hear the governor's suggestions as to how we can further improve to fulfill the governor's challenge to us. In addition to meeting with us, the governor should meet with members of our community, the mayor of Postville, with our happy employees and our supervisors and our compliance officers.
In the end, we are certain that the governor will see firsthand that our plant is anything but a "jungle," and, when all of the bitterness of the last few months is taken out of the equation, that we are indeed on course to being on an even "higher road."
CHAIM ABRAHAMS is plant manager at Agriprocessors. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. No admission of wrongdoing.
2. No admission of laxness.
3. No apology.
4. Blames workers, even though federal agents found blank fake green cards in Agriprocessors' Human Resources Department.
5. Admits in a backhanded, perhaps accidental way that Agriprocessors is not yet fully in compliance with applicable law and sees nothing wrong with that.
6. Claims credit for EPA-related actions Agriprocessors was forced to take under law.
7. Does not address current Iowa OSHA citations and fines.
8. Claims to be paying for healthcare for all its workers while most new hires work for Jacobson Staffing and OneForce Staffing, not for Agriprocessors.
[Hat Tip: BC.]