Iowa Fines AgriProcessors for Labor Violations

By Anthony Weiss

Published March 24, 2008, issue of April 04, 2008.

The country’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, already under scrutiny for its labor practices, took another hit last week when Iowa state officials fined it $182,000.

The Iowa Division of Labor cited AgriProcessors for a broad range of recent health and safety violations, including a failure to provide workers with proper safety training, insufficient programs to manage blood-born pathogens and a failure to label toxic chemicals. Some of the 39 citations, related to safety procedures for using hazardous equipment, were repeat violations.

AgriProcessors’ Postville, Iowa, plant is the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the world and has been under scrutiny for its labor record since 2006, when the Forward reported on the working conditions. The reports led the Conservative movement to create a new system that will certify the labor practices of kosher food producers. That system is not yet in place.

Kerry Koonce, a spokeswoman for Iowa Workforce Development, of which the Division of Labor is a part, said that both the number of citations and the size of the fine were unusually large.

“It’s not a record, but it’s definitely up near the top,” she told the Forward.

In a statement, AgriProcessers defended itself, saying, “The company maintains a pro-active program for the safety and health of its employees. Any valid concerns raised by the Iowa Division of Labor Services have been immediately addressed. None of the citation items caused any worker injuries or illness. The company is reviewing the citations and believes many are not substantiated. The company will oppose improper citations.”

AgriProcessors has 15 days to file a formal response to the citations.



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