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Agriprocessors’ Bi-Coastal Critics

Agriprocessors — the kosher meat giant that has been in the national spotlight ever since its Iowa slaughterhouse was the target of a massive federal immigration raid in May — is taking flak from critics east and west.

The Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe both published editorials yesterday assailing Agriprocessors for its treatment of its workers. This time, however, the focus isn’t on allegations of mistreatment of workers at its Iowa plant (a story our Nathaniel Popper broke back in 2006).

Instead, the papers are unloading on Agri over its efforts to prevent workers at its Brooklyn distribution center from unionizing (another story Nathaniel broke for the Forward, this one just last month).

Both papers take aim at an attempt by Agriprocessors to void a 3-year-old vote in favor of unionization by its Brooklyn workers. The company has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court arguing that workers who are in the country illegally have no right to unionize, a position that, both papers note, flies in the face of a 1984 Supreme Court precedent.

The Times accuses Agriprocessors of “doing all it can to exploit every crack in the United States’ broken immigration system.”

Its editorialist writes:

This should alarm people on all sides of the immigration debate – those who favor stepped-up deportations and sanctions against employers of illegal immigrants, as well as those who support increased labor and civil rights for immigrants. Should Agriprocessors prevail, illegal immigrants would be vulnerable to even greater human rights and labor abuses than they are now, and employers would have more incentive not to hire U.S. citizens, who have the right to organize.

The Globe for its part, in an editorial titled “More immigration chutzpah”, also manages to summon up a good measure of indignation:

…Intimidated, desperate immigrants are more willing to work for longer hours and less pay, which is why companies like Agriprocessors continue to hire them. That won’t change until the penalties for breaking the law are greater for business owners than a small fine.

Agriprocessors wants it both ways: to continue to exploit illegal workers, but not to give them a chance to improve their lot. If owners don’t want their illegal workers to demand better conditions, they shouldn’t hire them.

Meanwhile, in other Agriprocessors news: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals keeps up its effort to draw attention to the company’s actions vis-à-vis the four-legged with another (gory) video, and Nathaniel Popper is interviewed about his Forward scoops by the new investigative journalism hub ProPublica.

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