July 21, 2008

The focus turns to the workers and their families, but there is always the but

I have to admit that when I read about the plight of the families of the immigrants who were arrested in the May 12th raid in Postville, I wondered what can be done to help them? Amongst the 300 or so waiting for the proceedings that may result in their deportation to Guatemala and Mexico, are breadwinners and women. I also wondered about the plight of the families of 58 arrested immigrants in Reno, Nevada, all workers in 11 stores of McDonalds’, where there was no boycott and no lynch mob. I thought about the families of the 4000 undocumented workers arrested in 2007. In 2005, Wal-Mart paid $11 million to end a probe into the use of illegal immigrants. So there is something noble in a planned march next Sunday (July 27th) in Postville by St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville, Jewish Community Action of St. Paul, Minn., and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs of Chicago (which is offering a kosher lunch to participants). The march in fact begins at the church and will no doubt pass the Agriprocessors plant. Also participating will be the Agudas Achim Synagogue in Iowa City, ironically affiliated with both the Union for Reform Judaism and The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (they alternate prayer services). The flyer on the “peaceful march” seems to focus only on the plight of the immigrant families, which is admirable.

In an e-mail urging its membership to attend, Agudas Achim points out that the groups planning the immigration reform rally in Postville “promised testimony from people directly affected by the raid, as well as talk about immigration reform and workers' rights.” So far so good and even commendable, but then the some of the true colors of the march organizers surfaced. The e-mail continued: “This rally is to protest the inhumane treatment of the workers at Agriproccesors and to support the workers there. Rabbi Henry Karp of Davenport has to his credit been very vocal about this and has been in contact with one of the organizers, Rabbi Morris Allen in Minneapolis.” There you have it. It matters little that there is no inhumane treatment at Agriprocessors, overseen by former U.S. Attorney Jim Martin, who is responsible for compliance and who is committed to go beyond compliance and making the plant a model of treatment of workers. He has already hired a reputable staffing firm, retained a former OSHA official and even instituted a 24-hour hotline for worker’s complaints. They don’t seem to want to allow the improvements to take shape, the internal and external investigations to go forward and the supply of kosher meat to be resumed. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that the fringe leftist Jewish groups want nothing less than the closure of the only dedicated glatt kosher meat plant in America. For the few weeks that there were shortages in meats, many kosher consumers suffered. Should the plant be brought to its knees as the Rabbi Allens seem to want, it will set back kosher in America 20 years or more. I and most other Jews who covet kosher care deeply about the plight of the workers, but what we can’t fathom is the march to the gallows that some seem to be insisting on. How shameful!