The Register also digs deeper into a story we first reported yesterday, Long Prairie Packing's Postville job fair. A rep for the LPP told the Register that, under normal conditions, meatpackers don't recruit in each other's territory.
This is an exception and is happening because…
Minnesota meatpacker woos unhappy Postville workers
BY TONY LEYS • TLEYS@DMREG.COM • SEPTEMBER 18, 2008
Postville, Ia. — A Minnesota meatpacking plant is trying to lure away workers from the Agriprocessors plant here.
Long Prairie Packing of Long Prairie, Minn., placed a large ad in Wednesday's Postville Herald-Leader, announcing that it would pay at least $11 an hour, plus bonuses of up to $3,000 for workers who stay at least three months. The company has scheduled a job fair in downtown Postville on Saturday and Sunday.
The ad was the talk of the town, which has been rocked by allegations of worker mistreatment at Agriprocessors.
The plant was the site of a massive immigration raid in May, and it has been struggling to replace the hundreds of illegal-immigrant workers who were arrested or fled. Its owner and four managers face state charges of illegally using child labor at the plant, which they deny.
An executive for Long Prairie's parent company acknowledged that it was trying to recruit unhappy Agriprocessors workers.
Bill LaMarr, industrial relations manager for American Foods Group, said it was unusual for one plant to do that to another. "In the past, we've generally respected each other's territory," he said.
But he added that his company had heard of widespread displeasure with conditions and pay at Agriprocessors, and it hopes to hire about 100 workers for the plant in Minnesota and another facility in Nebraska. The company will help new workers move and find affordable housing, he said.
Agriprocessors' leaders have said they have raised their starting pay from about $8 to $10 per hour since the raid. They did not immediately reply to a request for comment on their competitor's ploy.
The Rev. Paul Ouderkirk, a Postville priest and Agriprocessors critic, said he is encouraging the company's workers to attend the job fair. "We're going to notify everybody about this — I mean everybody," he said. "I hope they pack the place to the roof."
Marcus Valdez, a Texas native who worked several weeks at Agriprocessors, said he understood why the other company decided to recruit in the Postville company's backyard. "They probably knew there's a lot of people here who aren't working there anymore who have some experience," he said.
Valdez said he recently quit because his paychecks were being shorted, which has been a common complaint among recent Agriprocessors workers. He said he probably would check out the competing company's offerings.
Several natives of Somalia, who have flocked to Postville this summer, predicted their countrymen would be interested in the new offer. They noted that many of the Somalian refugees lived in the Minneapolis area before moving to Iowa, and some still have families there.
Samir Jaylani, a Somali refugee who briefly worked at Agriprocessors, said he was intrigued by the new offer from Minnesota. "I'd go there today," he said after reading the newspaper ad.
A union consultant, Avram Lyon