Religion & Beliefs

Meet Your Meat: Rubashkin Scandal Grows Ever-More Rancid

Since federal agents conducted an immigration raid on the Postville, IA, AgriProcessors meatpacking plant on May 12th, the Jewish community has been in a furor over everything from worker’s rights, to accusations of sexual harassment, to the possibility of a … Read More

By / June 12, 2008

Since federal agents conducted an immigration raid on the Postville, IA, AgriProcessors meatpacking plant on May 12th, the Jewish community has been in a furor over everything from worker’s rights, to accusations of sexual harassment, to the possibility of a kosher meat shortage if AgriProcessors is forced to close. In the last week there have been a fair number of developments:

  • The Jew & The Carrot has an interview with Zalman Rothschild, a former mashkiach (kosher supervisor) at AgriProcessors. Rothschild says there was a nice rapport between the rabbis and the Mexicans who worked at the plant (except with the women, ahem) when he was there, but calls AgriProcessors “unprofessional” and “disconnected” from the day-to-day operations.
  • Ben Harris at JTA went to Postville and spoke with Sholom Rubashkin, now former CEO of AgriProcessors. Though Rubashkin insisted he was “clean as a baby” and offered to give Harris a tour of the plant, the offer was eventually reneged, and Harris was referred to the company spokesperson, who refused to discuss the allegations the workers are making about hiring minors, forcing workers to take 14 and 15 hour shifts, and an environment of sexual harassment. Harris also went to Brooklyn to speak with Aaron Rubashkin, who started his business in 1953, the same year he emigrated from Russia. The elder Rubashkin was more forthcoming than his son, and flat out denies every allegation made. He comes across as scattered and affable, but uninformed. Included in the article is a lengthy audio clip of the interview.
  • The Chicago Tribune reports that the State of Iowa is easing up on many of the fines that it initially imposed on AgriProcessors. After AgriProcessors “promised to improve safety for its workers” the fines were reduced from $182,000 to $42,750. Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley is concerned about the reduction in fines, and has spoken to the AP, explaining that he understands the reasoning behind the shrinking fines, and hopes AgriProcessors can live up to their promise to improve conditions for workers.

  • AgriProcessors frequently shipped meat to smaller communities, where other kosher meat and poultry options weren’t available. These communities are now feeling the pinch as AgriProcessors struggles to fill orders, and many are left without any kosher meat, reports the New York Jewish Week.
  • The Forward reports that demand for AgriProcessors meat (which sells under the brand names Aaron’s Best, Rubashkin’s, Shor Habor, Iowa’s Best Beef and Supreme Kosher) has not slowed since the immigration raid on May 12th, and if anything they’re struggling to fill orders with the reduced output from Postville.