Most of these will be violations that if you read Jewschool or Failed Messiah's excellent coverage, you will already know about - the bribery, the unsafe food handling practices, and of course the mistreatment of non-Jewish workers, prompting the Conservative Movement's creation (at least in theory) of the Hechsher Tzedek. I want to emphasize a citation from Failed Messiah's post on the topic which comes from the USDA's inspector:
There were also at least five instances in which AgriProcessors was cited for not taking the required measures to fend off Mad Cow disease. In one instance, an inspector says he asked for a suspicious cow to be taken off the line and later discovered that the cow had been slaughtered with the rest of the animals. The inspector says he informed someone at the company of the “very serious noncompliance that had occurred.”
I emphasize these words because, of course, Agriprocessor's response, published on its Web site and in Yeshiva World News, was simply to deny, deny deny. “Concerns about Mad Cow disease are simply wrong,” the letter said. “We have never had product from any suspect animals leave our plant.” they claim.
Astonishingly, according to KosherToday,a trade publication that has defended AgriProcessors, none of this has hurt Agriprocessor sales. In fact, they claim that to the contrary, “The net effect of the onslaught against Agri was that sales of its products in some stores have risen by as much as 30% and it has opened an unprecedented number of new accounts.”
Agriprocessors, of course, claim that all of this noise from UFCW is because workers have not unionized at their plant saying that UFCW is trying to “force a company into submission to unionize a plant even when it is against the wishes of the workers.” Oh, yes, certainly the workers at a plant in which the violations of workers' rights were so egregious that it got even the notoriously and incredibly lethargic Conservative movement to go and check the situation out and create a program entirely in response wouldn't be suppressing workers and interfering with their desire to unionize so that there might be some organization to help safeguard their rights. Seriously, why would the Agriprocessor workers be interested in a union? I'm sure they're all happy as clams (treyf intended). Nor did they mention that the Jewish Labor Committee is working with UFCW on the matter.
The Forward noted,
A spokeswoman for the UFCW, Jill Cashen, told the Forward that AgriProcessors had never asked employees if they wanted to unionize. “The [AgriProcessors] plant isn’t a free and open environment,” Cashen said. “We don’t speak for the workers, and neither does AgriProcessors. Workers there have never had a chance to vote one way or another.”
However half a bright note may be on the horizon. On the Orthodox Emes Ve-Emunah blog, author Harry Maryles posts,
Yeshivaworld has received dozens of emails in the last 12 hours telling us that they have received anonymous, automated phone calls telling them that Rubashkin Meat has Mad Cow Disease - amongst other things. Yeshivaworld has learned that these phone calls have been made to thousands & thousands of homes.
This was followed by a reader who took offense at the fact that an outside organization whose motives were not pure would use scare tactics as a means of putting pressure on Rubashkin for their own purposes.
This in turn generated a defensive response from Sholom Rubashkin, a vice president of the company that is both true... and misleading. He claimed they have never had a recall of their raw meat. True. But they did have a recall of some of their processed meat. One that the USDA termed a high health risk!
Now I seriously doubt that Rubashkin’s products have been tainted by Mad Cow desease, although it’s possible. But to defend oneself by misleading statements calls into question the integrity of their entire enterprise.
It is also unfair for Yeshivaworld to present a one sided view of this issue. They should have given the union an opportunity to present theirs.
Here is the way my source put it:
To imply that the USDA has never found reason for a recall is IMNSHO far below the level of honesty I would expect from a kosher food supplier.
Okay, so maybe the message is starting to sink in - after the arrests of members of the Rubashkin family (on unrelated charges), several outside - disinterested- reports of various misdeeds in the plant, the Orthodox community is just beginning to perhaps think about maybe suspecting that all is not perfectly cricket. Well, maybe in another decade or so something will happen. Just maybe. Or maybe it will just increase their sales more.
For a history see:
See: צִיּוֹן בְּמִשְׁפָּט תִּפָּדֶה וְשָׁבֶיהָ בִּצְדָקָה, Where’s the beef now? Kashrut update on Rubashkin’s, Another beef with kashrut in the news, and Kashrut Brouhaha Has Legs; Agriprocessors: Still trayfin’ it up,
and Failed Messiah
Oh, and I hereby initiate the new "Rubashkin's" category which I threatened in my last post on these shysters, since this seems to be nowhere close to an end...
HT Arieh Lebowitz of the JLC