I'm told this is how the Agriprocessors-paid junket to Postville worked.
The rabbis – all hand-picked by Agriprocessors, its paid consultants or supporters – were given a guided tour of the plant by a Rubashkin. Then they were given access and told to go anywhere in the plant on their own and look at anything they wanted to.
This assured the rabbis that the plant is, in fact kosher – at least as far as the technical aspects of the meat produced.
After that, rabbis met with Jim Martin, Agriprocessors "compliance officer," and Agriprocessors new safety consultant. Martin blamed recent employee related issues (i.e., the homeless workers debacle) on a Texas staffing firm (presumably Bravo), and said the firms the company now works with all use the e-Verify system so all new workers are presumably legal.
At the intercession of locals, the rabbis were offered an off-trip side visit to St. Paul's Lutheran Church to meet (in a side room) with former Agriprocessors workers and the people who have been feeding, housing and caring for them for 2 1/2 months.
The vast majority of the rabbis refused that offer and did not meet with these former workers or those who care for them.
In the end, four rabbis met with two representatives of St. Bridget's, the Catholic Church coordinating food, housing and medical care for former (and even current) Agriprocessors workers.
UPDATE 2: No former or current workers were present. I'm told the two invited rabbis refused to meet with former workers or with current workers outside of Agriprocessors grounds.
UPDATE 1: state of the Jews' claim, posted below, that only two rabbis were invited because no one knew for sure who was on the trip is only partially true.
It is true only two rabbis were invited. Both were chosen because their participation was already public last week. Obviously, one of those rabbis was Pesach Lerner, the EVP of Young Israel.
Lerner and the other rabbi "invited" all other rabbis to attend, knowing full well to attend, most would have to miss their flights back home. Only two of those agreed, both of who probably drove to Postville so the delay made no significant difference.
Lerner and three other rabbis did go to that meeting. What they heard confirms much of what has been posted here over the past 2 1/2 months.
But knowing with relative certainty the composition of that small group, I can bet you you won't hear much about those abuses from them, even though those rabbis heard about empty paychecks with huge deductions taken for rent, of abuses and degradations, of forced unpaid overtime, of child labor, of a dangerous workplace and no safety training or protective gear, and other items from the litany of abuses known as Agriprocessors.
At least one of these rabbis thinks the Rubashkin family can "make it up" to these former workers.
But "making it up" involves Rubashkins paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime, sick leave, breaks and vacation pay – something the Rubashkins will certainly refuse to do – and it also involves paying the local food shelf and other organizations a serious chunk of money to make up for the losses taken by feeding, housing, clothing and nursing former and current Agriprocessors workers.
Past that, it is nearly impossible logistically to make this type of restitution, even when a company is willing and trustworthy – and Agriprocessors is neither.
All this begs a question.
These worker abuses were clearly widespread. They involve breaking many US laws and several halakhot, Jewish laws, as well. These abuses were systemic and took place continually over a period of years.
How can the kashrut of Agriprocessors be trusted when its owners and managers are criminals in the eyes of secular and Jewish law?
If the answer to that question is. "We trust the supervising rabbis – Weissmandal, the OU, Crown Heights Beis Din, etc.," how can that trust still remain?
These supervising rabbis ignored or simply failed to notice 13 year old workers. The failed to notice employees who were refused breaks, who were made to work forced unpaid overtime, who were constantly threatened and berated by supervisors, and who had no safety equipment.
It was as if clear violations of US and Jewish law did not matter to these supervising rabbis, as long as those violations did not effect the technical kosher status of the meat.
Rabbis like these cannot be trusted for anything. Their blind eyes can just as easily be turned to mislabeled product and salting times, as well.
I once worked a kosher processing plant as a mashgiach. The plant made hot dogs, kishke, bologna, and other deli products.
The USDA inspectors repeatedly warned employees not to pick up raw meat that had fallen from the production line and put it back into production. I did the same.
For the USDA, it was a health issue. For me, it was a kashrut issue. I did not want employees to tamper with a system that had its entry point closely supervised but its long middle much less so. And I also saw the open violation of USDA regulations as an indication of how employees (and management) treated kosher regulations when the mashgichim and rabbis were not close by.
But the Rav HaMachshir, the man whose name was on those deli meats, disagreed. His representative told me the Rav HaMachshir saw no difficulties when employees disregarded or flaunted USDA regulations. The Rav HaMachshir did not much care for the idea that nothing should be added by an employee to the production line except at its well supervised entry point, or much farther down the line where spices were added. According to his representative, the Rav HaMachshir felt that level of control was unnecessary.
I pointed out that it was just as easy for a worker to take a piece of meat that fell off a salting combo and toss it onto the line, still in its salt, or, for that matter, a piece of never-salted meat onto the line and into a salami.
That point, true as it was, was lost on the Rav HaMachshir. (Presumably this was so because any such piece would be battel, negated, by the majority.)
Also lost on the Rav HaMachshir was the point that accustoming workers to follow rules is important. This rabbi also did not grasp the idea that turning a blind eye to violations of US law and regulation was a corrosive thing, both for workers and for on-site mashgichim and rabbis.
Morality and ethics were not Rav HaMachshir's strong suits.
The Rav HaMachshir was a vice president of Agudath HaRabbonim when Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was its president.
This type of moral compartmentalization, the idea that salting times are sacrosanct while a worker's amputated hand is not, is something wholly new in Judaism, something more revolutionary than any of the reforms pushed for by the early Reform movement or by the Conservative Movement through much of the 1950s. It turns halakha on its head.
And that should make the meat produced by Agriprocessors as treife as a Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich.
Many Jews know this instinctively. Orthodoxy, forever lost in minutia, does not.