Kosher Supervisors Stage Walkout at Iowa Agriprocessors Plant

By JTA

Published August 20, 2008.
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Kosher supervisors at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Iowa temporarily walked off the job.

The 45-minute action Wednesday resulted from frustration over reduced pay, according to company spokesman Menachem Lubinsky. The Postville plant, whose kosher regulations prohibit any production when not under close rabbinic supervision, is said to be operational again.

Lubinsky said the issue of pay for the rabbis has been “simmering” for some time because of the challenge in replacing workers arrested in a May 12 immigration raid on the plant.

Agriprocessors, the country’s largest producer of kosher meat, has been struggling to return its production to previous levels since the raid, in which nearly half its workforce was arrested on immigration charges.

The difficulty in restoring production levels has led to fewer shifts and thus reduced pay for the rabbinic supervisors, Lubinsky said. The supervisors also may have been angry over the increased “lag” between when they work and are paid, he added.

Agriprocessors is believed to be under severe financial stress from a combination of rising labor costs, high legal fees and reduced revenue.

Since the raid, non-Jewish workers at the plant have alleged they were the targets of sexual harassment and forced to work long hours under dangerous conditions. No charges have been brought against senior management at the plant, though two supervisors have been arrested for aiding and abetting in the procurement of fake work documents.

One of those supervisors, Juan Carlos Guerrero-Espinoza, was expected to plead guilty Wednesday to various charges related to the hiring of illegal workers.






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