The Forward: Workers' Rights Abuses at AgriProcessors
Kudos to The Forward for deeply delving into the egregious human rights violations faced by AgriProcessors employees. In a front-page feature, The Forward's Nathaniel Popper shows that 100 years after the publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, this kosher slaughterhouse is still a jungle in its own right. According to the article, AgriProcessors employees--many of whom are illegal immigrants who are desperate for employment--receive some of the lowest wages in the industry, are not given adequate training to operate dangerous machinery, do not have easy access to health insurance, and are viewed as second-class citizens compared to the Jewish staff. The paper also includes a transcript of an undercover investigator's failed attempt to receive worker's compensation after contracting a bacteria infection while on the job. In yet another article, The Forward's editorial board writes:
A greater, more pressing mystery involves the Torah's laws of labor relations and business behavior. They appear throughout the text at great length. They are specific, unambiguous, unblinking and as relevant today as ever. Do not humiliate your employee. Pay your workers on time. Give them time off. Compensate them for their injuries. Do not treat them like chattel. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt.
The laws couldn't be clearer. Why aren't they upheld with the same rigor as the rules of kosher food or Sabbath?
How is it that a kosher food supplier who violates the Sabbath loses his kosher certification, but a supplier who underpays his workers does not? Why is it that a community leader may be barred from receiving synagogue honors if he openly eats pork — or lives as a homosexual — but not if he cheats his workers or harasses his tenants?