You may remember Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, a signatory to the Uri L'Tzedek boycott against Agriprocessors, endorsed its premature lifting in a letter to the Jerusalem Post, for reasons that do not seem to hold up to scrutiny.
I wrote an email to Rabbi Riskin eight days ago, before it became clear Agriprocessors' compliance officer Jim Martin had reneged on his part of the boycott-ending deal.
I asked Rabbi Riskin the following questions:
I read your letter in the Jerusalem Post and I'd like to ask you few questions:
1. Have you done any personal research into the allegations and facts against Agriprocessors? Or are you relying only on what Shmuly told you?
2. Did you know workers are allegedly still forced to buy their own safety equipment?
3. Did you know many of Agriprocessors' new workers live off the food shelf run by the Catholic Church, and that all of the displaced former workers do, as well?
4. Did you know federal agents found dozens of blank fraudulent IDs in Agriprocessors human services department on the day of the raid?
5. Did you know that displaced Agriprocessors workers claim they have been shorted overtime hours and all their vacation pay?
6. Have you heard the testimony of the children, some as young as 13, forced to work 11 to 15 hour shifts overnight?
7. The plant has a long documented history of serious Humane Slaughter, worker safety, and EPA violations. Additionally, its owners have personal histories of violations of the National Labor Relations Act (the NLRB called it a "proclivity for violating" it) and have other very serious documented ethical issues. In light of of this, why should these men be trusted now?
8. In light of all the above, please explain why you believe lifting the boycott was the correct thing to do.
For the record, Rabbi Riskin did not respond.
Rabbi Riskin can claim to be very busy. He can claim to be far above me (and above us). He can claim he has no reason to respond.
But the truth is, he can't respond.
If Rabbi Riskin answers yes to any of questions 2 through 6, his reason for lifting the boycott should be off. (It should be off anyway because Agriprocessors broke their end of the deal.) (And also here.)
If he answers yes to number 1 but no to numbers 2 through 7, he hasn't done real research.
If he answers no to number 1, he exposes himself as someone who takes important decisions that effect the lives of poor, illiterate workers in a cavalier fashion.
And he cannot answer number 8.
One of the great (and sad) lessons of the various Agriprocessors and Rubashkin scandals has been the vapidity of rabbis and, for want of a better term, their apparent venal-keit.
Shlomo Riskin, it seems, is no exception.