As the months go by, more is being uncovered about the Postville, Iowa meatpacking plant that was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in May. Even though two of the plant’s managers were arrested in July on criminal immigration and fraudulent-identity charges, some are still questioning why no top level executives have been charged with any wrongdoing. As this article points out, the plant is not only facing criminal immigration violations, but a slew of other criminal charges that are currently under investigation:
According to lawyers in the case and agency representatives, there are likely to be civil charges related to immigration, wage enforcement, safety and other labor issues which usually result in fines, however, criminal charges related to immigration, child labor and sexual harassment and assault are far more serious and potentially wide reaching. Anyone with “knowledge or intent” of child laborers for instance is subject to criminal prosecution — in theory this could include management, human resources representatives and owners alike.
From the dangerous working conditions the workers in the plant (of which over 50 were found to be under-age) endured, to the “fast track” immigration proceedings (which one defense lawyer believes were organized by the court and the prosecution to produce guilty pleas), everything about this story is right down depressing. What makes this whole deal even more aggravating is the fact that the owners of the meatpacking plant, the Rubashkin family, completely fail to take any responsibility in the treatment of its workers. Apparently, the Rubashkin family just didn’t know any better:
Supporters say the Rubashkins are no scofflaws, just unsophisticated businessmen who made some mistakes as their company grew. “These are simple people. They are a family of butchers,” said Dovid Eliezrie, a California rabbi who has been assisting the family with the media.
This family apparently transformed the town of Postville and became multi-millionaires within the meatpacking industry, so I’m sure they are no simpletons. It’s a shame that they turned a blind-eye and that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other regulatory agencies did not work harder to improve working conditions prior to the raid in May. As Stephanie mentioned in a previous post, we must advocate for better treatment of workers, because regardless of your opinion on immigration, we are all human beings who deserve to be treated decently and fairly. Government safety agencies certainly do not have the best interest of the worker in mind, so it is up to us inform ourselves about these issues and speak out about such injustices.
For an investigative look inside the poultry industry, please watch 20,000 Cuts a Day, a PBS Exposé documentary which aired in June. You can watch the whole thing online and it is highly recommended watching.
Contributed by Raquel Namuche