Agriprocessors boycott commences

A Modern Orthodox social justice group launched a boycott of the kosher slaughterhouse Agriprocessors.

Uri L’tzedek, an initiative started by students at the liberal Orthodox rabbinical seminary Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York City, set Monday as the date it would stop patronizing Agriprocessors if the company did not agree to abide by certain ethical labor standards.

Organizers say some 1,300 people, including several leading Jewish figures, have signed the group’s petition asking the company to establish a transparent department to ensure compliance with both Jewish and U.S. legal requirements regarding worker treatment.

Representatives of Uri L’tzedek met last week with several company officials in New York, including members of the extended Rubashkin family, which owns the company. The group was promised a statement of the company’s position on worker rights within 48 hours, but the document had not materialized as of Tuesday morning.

The representatives also spoke with Jim Martin, a former federal prosecutor who was hired recently as the company’s compliance officer, and submitted written questions to Martin regarding the parameters of his role.

“In the interests of fully restoring consumer confidence, we have asked that the company be transparent about Mr. Martin’s findings, recommendations, and new policies instituted,” said a statement Tuesday from the group. “We are also looking forward to receiving the document that Agriprocessors has promised to provide that will detail Agriprocessors’ policy towards the rights of its workers. Provided that Agriprocessors supplies the information that is has promised to provide and is willing to make Mr. Martin’s reports and conclusions available to the public, we are hopeful that we can resolve these issues positively for the workers at Agriprocessors, the Rubashkin family, kosher consumers, and klal yisrael.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested nearly 400 Agriprocessors workers in a raid last month on the firm’s plant in Postville, Iowa. Employees since the raid have complained of working long hours without being paid and being sexually harassed.

Agriprocessors spokesmen have not responded to JTA requests for comment.

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