"It’s important not to forget that the abuses and illegal behavior that had been taking place in the Agriprocessors plant were well known and publicly documented long before the 2008 raid. If the government had intervened earlier — if inspectors had been working to uphold safe and honest labor practices in the state, if the U.S. government had established a humane and practical immigration policy — then there would have been no need for the man-made disaster that overwhelmed Postville five years ago today."
The Iowa Press-Citizen writes:
…[I]t’s important not to forget that the abuses and illegal behavior that had been taking place in the Agriprocessors plant were well known and publicly documented long before the 2008 raid. If the government had intervened earlier — if inspectors had been working to uphold safe and honest labor practices in the state, if the U.S. government had established a humane and practical immigration policy — then there would have been no need for the man-made disaster that overwhelmed Postville five years ago today.
Holding companies accountable continues to be the best way to ensure that businesses aren’t allowed to continue with “business as usual” when it comes to abusing workers — documented or undocumented — without fear of significant reprisals for those who profit from such abuse.
But the laws were not enforced, in large part because the Bush Administration had decided not to enforce them against any big or mid-sized agriculture business.
USDA FSIS inspectors had their hands tied by Washington. Food safety and humane slaughter laws were frequently left unenforced as a result.
At Agriprocessors, USDA FSIS inspectors took to playing cards and computer games in their office rather than do their jobs, because whenever they actually did their jobs and reported problems, their regional supervisors reprimanded them.
The Department of Labor was given a large amount of evidence against Agriprocessors but failed to investigate – until it heard that a different part of the government, ICE, that had Bush's backing, was planning a massive immigration raid at Agriprocessors. Then the DoL begged ICE to postpone the raid so it could "finish" the investigation it had so mishandled.
ICE didn't wait.
Its raid uncovered Agriprocessors' double payroll, the different colored checks for documented and undocumented workers, the forced overtime, the theft of worker's salaries, and so many other horrors – including dozens of child workers.
If the DoL had done its job – or of the State of Iowa had done its – all these abuses could have been stopped years earlier.
Agriprocessors was a hell hole where approximately 75% of the workforce was undocumented – and exploited.
But in the end, all the federal government really cared about was criminalizing and penalizing the undocumented workers and then later convicting Agriprocessors VP and manager Sholom Rubashkin for the massive bank fraud conspiracy he ran to both keep Agriprocessors' lenders in the dark about the company's rapidly worsening financial situation on one hand and looting the company of millions of dollars on the other.
Rubashkin laundered Agriprocessors' money through local Jewish charities he controlled and apparently through Chabad charities in New York, Minnesota and elsewhere.
His 27-year sentence is draconian. Unfortunately it is also legal and fits perfectly within the range set down in the US Sentencing Guidelines – guidelines that desperately need to be changed.
But that does not change Rubashkin's guilt or his delusional arrogance, and it does not wipe away the stain on Judaism caused by him and by his extended family.
From repeated EPA violations, from trying to throw local elections, bribing Postville's mayor, intentionally committing the worst violations of Humane Slaughter law in modern US history, to the abuse of workers and so much more, the Rubashkin family has done more to damage Orthodox Judaism in America than anyone or anything else ever.
And the worst thing about this five year anniversary is that five full years have passed, and not one Rubashkin has taken responsibility for any of this. They have not made restitution. Not one of them has honestly and forthrightly apologized to their victims or to anyone else.
And standing with them, enabling their craziness and their crimes, are the masses of haredim, Chabad hasidim and Chabad and haredi leaders, the blind leading the blind ever closer to the edge of the cliff.
In a way, the legacy of the raid is that it never really ended. The former workers still suffer. Rubashkin's many victims still suffer. And Rubashkin's supporters are still oblivious to it all.
It is a bitter day in Postville. It is also a bitter day for people everywhere who care about what it means to be weak and powerless in America and at the mercy of men like Sholom Rubashkin and George W. Bush.