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Kosher Meat Company Loses Legal Fight to Union

It has not been a good week for AgriProcessors, the world’s largest kosher slaughterhouse. In addition to a falling-out between two of its kashrut certifiers, the company recently lost an appeal in federal court and continues to field attacks from the slaughterhouse workers’ union.

Last week, a federal court of appeals rejected AgriProcessors’ claim that workers in a Brooklyn distribution center should not be allowed to unionize because many of them are undocumented aliens. The decision ended a two-year court battle.

“[AgriProcessors] tied the case up in court,” said Jill Cashen, a spokeswoman for United Food and Commercial Workers, which is the union that represents slaughterhouse employees. She added that the long period during which the case moved through the courts would have given AgriProcessors time to hire a new crop of workers who had not voted to unionize in 2005.

“It’s a union-busting tactic,” she said.

In yet another development, the UFCW, which has long protested AgriProcessors’ labor practices, claims that its chemical tests of AgriProcessors’ meat reveals much higher sodium levels than the company reports on its packaging. The union has also uncovered a letter from four United States congressmen to the United States Department of Agriculture that expresses concern over the plant’s record on health and safety regulations.

Rabbi Menachem Weissmandl, leader of an ultra-Orthodox community in upstate New York, criticized the UFCW for what he called its “agenda” of recruiting uninterested workers into the union. He called a November 2007 UFCW campaign, in which the union phoned religious households with a Yiddish message questioning AgriProcessors’ kashrut standards, “psychological terrorism.”

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