Mayer Fertig gets it right:
A three hour tour, a three hour tour
We must be missing something.
Federal and state law enforcement is investigating the Rubashkin plant in Postville, Iowa a half dozen different ways, with the most recent unpleasant revelation being alleged child labor violations on a scale said to be unprecedented in the State of Iowa. Yet, to hear continuing reaction to that now famous three hour tour of the plant by a group of rabbis ‹ remember Gilligan’s three hour tour? ‹ a guy not paying attention might think the entire Postville matter has been exposed as a trumped-up blood libel put out there by union organizers who play hardball.
It’s nice to know that the Rubashkin plant is spotless. After all that downtime following the immigration raid, we suppose they had time to clean up a little. Does anyone else think it would have been relevant to point out that Rubashkin paid for the tour? The National Council of Young Israel, which led the visit to Potemkin Village, apparently didn’t.
It’s also good to know that some of the townspeople are standing behind their biggest local employer. And it’s true that an accused under our system of justice is presumed innocent until proven guilty. And it seems clear that the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union, frustrated in its attempts to unionize the plant, has been trying to stick it to the Rubashkins for years. But, with all that said, does anyone really believe that there’s no case here?
Obviously, we’re not condoning a rush to justice; we’re certainly not condoning loshon horah; and we’re absolutely not condoning the union’s over-the-top activities. But smoke and fire do tend to work together and it seems eminently clear to us that not everything that was going on at that plant was on the up and up. In case you don’t know, The Forward has been reporting this story for years leading up to recent events. Some of the reporting has been about the back and forth with the union, but not all of it. In fact, it’s fair to say that for people who have been following that paper’s coverage, none of this is even much of a surprise.
Pretend for a moment that the initial fuss was about a serious, alleged kashrus violation, and not about civil laws. After what happened in Monsey last year, is there anyone who cares about kashrus who wouldn’t have said, “better safe than sorry” and “you can’t be too careful?” Unlikely. There would have been little talk of loshon horah, and few, if any self-righteous calls about waiting for all the facts. At some point, all the facts will be in - probably at a trial, or maybe several. But in the meantime, what to do?
The Orthodox Union’s point about not being equipped to police legal compliance and immigration issues is a fair one, and calls to boycott Rubashkin meat altogether run headlong into realpolitik namely that the loss of the plant could, and has, wreaked havoc with the glatt meat market. Still, something useful has to come from this.
If nothing else, we hope it’s this: a realization within all parts of the frum community that mitzvah haboh b’aveira is not ok, that civil laws do matter, and that one ignores them at his peril.
[Hat Tip: Steve.]