L.A.'s Modern Orthodox pulpit rabbis are banding together to form a local Hechsher Tzedek-like organization to deal with labor abuses and other problems in businesses that are providers for or operate within the Jewish community.
Are they doing this honestly? Or is is this simply another RCA-like toothless tiger meant to…
…cover up for the OU?
…"Whereas we are appropriately extraordinarily careful about the laws of kashrut, clearly we have an attitude that is less rigorous and perhaps even somewhat lackadaisical when it comes to this whole other vitally important area of Jewish law," Kanefsky said. "A religious community has to be very concerned about kashrut, about education, about mikvah [ritual bath], and it has to be very concerned that the people we interact with on a regular basis are being treated in way that is halachically proper."
Peulat Sachir will involve itself in six areas: minimum wage, overtime, rest and meal breaks, workers compensation, leave policies and anti-discrimination protections. A lay board of labor lawyers, businesspeople and others with expertise in the field will analyze business practices by looking at paperwork and talking with employees.
The board will not deal with the complex area of immigration status. Labor laws apply equally to documented and undocumented workers, explained Craig Ackermann, a labor lawyer and lay leader on the project.
Businesses will not have to pay for certificates, but the rabbis acknowledge that businesses may have to spend more to qualify for the certificate, if, for instance, they have to start paying for overtime, giving paid leave or making sure workers get appropriate breaks.
Whether businesses which are not now in compliance will risk having to pass those costs on to customers is an open question.
"As people committed to halacha (Jewish law), we pay what has to be paid so we can fulfill the halacha -- we do it for kashrut, we do it to teach our children Torah. Should we not do it for the halacha of following the law of the land or of how we treat our employees?" Kanefsky asked.
The halachic concept of "dina demalchuta dina," the law of the land is the halacha, makes legal adherence and Jewish law one and the same, he pointed out.…
"I am hopeful that this will raise a greater level of awareness within various elements of the Orthodox community that this is an issue that needs to be addressed," Korobkin said. "I think many times we in the Orthodox community want to know how to react to crisis, and sometimes the way we react is by having a tehillim [psalm reciting] rally, or we speak about the need to daven [pray] harder, or to do teshuvah [repentance]. We feel this is form of teshuvah, as well -- this is a form of raising awareness in certain areas where there is room for improvement. We can act as a shining example to society at large and to other communities." …
This has far more promise than the RCA's weak and poorly designed program. Let's hope it works.