As first reported here, Agriprocessors' shochtim and rabbinic supervisors walked off the job yesterday because they have not been paid in a very long time.
Rabbi Menachem Meir Wiessmandl, Agriprocessors' chief supervising rabbi, now denies yesterday's walkout was, in fact, a walkout.
Rabbi Wiessmandl said…
…the rabbis simply had a friendly discussion with Heshy Rubashkin, the brother of Agriprocessors' Postville boss Sholom M. Rubashkin.
But what about stopping the production line? Why did this "friendly discussion" take place during work hours when production would have to stop?
The timing, Rabbi Wiessmandl told The Jewish Star, was “shlemazeldik.” Kind of like an episode of Laverne and Shirley, I suppose.
Weissmandl and Agriprocessors' spokesman, Menachem Lubinsky, both tried to spin issues behind the walkout to be reduced pay caused by fewer shifts, and that caused by the immigration raid.
Lubinsky, however, told the JTA the rabbis may also have been angry over what he called the increased “lag” between when they work and are paid. In English, this means a rabbi works a full week. The following Friday, he asks for his paycheck. The paycheck isn't there. Several weeks pass like this. The rabbi keeps working but doesn't gets paid.
Lubinsky said this problem had been "simmering" for awhile.
According to the Jewish Star,
…[Wiessmandl] admitted that there have been delays in paying the shochtim and mashgichim, as reported, though he wouldn’t say on the record how long those delays have been. He denied that the delays have been as long as nine weeks.
Payroll lags of 2-3 weeks are commonplace in the kosher meat industry, according to Rabbi Weissmandl. He compared routine delays in meeting payroll to those commonly experienced by rebbeim and teachers in financially ailing yeshivas. The delays were the result of the company’s current legal predicament, he said. …
Here is what the facts are, based on several different Postville sources and the media reports quoted above:
1. The delay in payment is longer than 3 weeks – 8 weeks seems plausible.
2. Despite Rabbi Wiessmandl's' claim, the rabbis did walk out.
3. I've been told by several sources that Sholom Rubashkin castigated the rabbis for walking out, telling them that is a "chillul hashem."
4. Sholom Rubashkin promised to pay the rabbis something by the end of yesterday's shift.
5. Complaints about reduced hours do exist, but they are secondary to the larger issue of extremely late pay.
6. Yesterday's "conversation" with Heshy Rubashkin wasn't particularly friendly.
But it is this quote from the Jewish Star that puts the spotlight where it should be:
Rabbi Weissmandl said that the Agriprocessors company has been meeting its financial obligations to him in a timely manner. He confirmed that the mashgichim and shochtim are technically his employees but said that the money to pay them ultimately comes from Agriprocessors. He declined to say whether it is he or the Rubashkins who personally sign the shochtims’ paychecks.
The paychecks are issued by Agriprocessors, not by Rabbi Wiessmandl. This means shochtim and mashgichim in effect work for Agriprocessors.
Even with all of the Rubashkin family's legal and ethical problems, it seems the OU, Supreme Kosher and other kosher supervising agencies see nothing wrong in having their shochtim and mashgichim paid by Agriprocessors.
Many kosher consumers would be shocked to learn this, even though similar arrangements are standard in the kosher industry. That is why Rabbi Menachem Meir Wiessmandl, won't admit the truth.