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Jewish labor group petitions kosher meat producer

The Jewish Labor Committee urged the largest U.S. kosher meat producer to improve worker conditions.

The labor group collected more than 300 signatures for its petition to Aaron Rubashkin, the owner of the country’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, Agriprocessors.

Sent Thursday, the petition refers to alleged abuses it says took place at the plant, including the flouting of child labor laws, sexual harassment and the failure to pay workers in full. Rubashkin has denied all those charges.

“As Jews of diverse backgrounds, we hereby add our voices to the growing call for the management of
Agriprocessors to live up to their responsibilities of corporate citizenship, to end its campaign of worker abuse, and respect the rights of their employees, including their legal right to union representation,” the petition reads. “Until Agriprocessors establishes a demonstrable commitment to these responsibilities, we will urge consumers of kosher meat products, individuals as well as institutions, to seek alternatives to the Rubashkin labels.”

Agriprocessors was the target of a massive federal immigration raid May 12, in which nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers were arrested at its Postville, Iowa, packing plant. In the raid’s aftermath, workers claimed they were subjected to harsh working conditions, rampant sexual harassment, and insufficient pay.

In a separate letter to Rubashkin, the acting director of the Jewish Labor Committee, Rosalind Spigel, urged Rubashkin to issue a public statement in English and Spanish apologizing to workers in the wake of “apparently credible accounts” of sexual harassment.

A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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