Exclusive to The Jewish Star: Rubashkin Reaction, And More

48

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

agri11.jpgEditorial: The end is near (Exclusive to The Jewish Star)

From the issue of Sept. 12, 2008

“Baloney!” — Abraham Aaron Rubashkin’s angry reaction Tuesday afternoon to an indictment handed up earlier in an Iowa court. The indictment named him, his son, Sholom Rubashkin, and two employees with more than 9,000 violations of that state’s child labor laws.

The indictment charges the defendants “participated in efforts to conceal children when federal and state labor officials inspected that plant.” Penalties could include lengthy prison terms and run up millions of dollars in fines.

“Crazy,” he said in a very brief telephone conversation with The Jewish Star. “For what? What did I do?”

Mr. Rubashkin, who built a modest Borough Park butcher shop into what until recently was the nation’s largest kosher meatpacker, returned to the meeting he said he’d interrupted to answer the phone.

Clearly he doesn’t believe anything was amiss at his plant in Postville, despite the indictment, the threat of other criminal charges related to immigration violations for which 270 of his employees have already been convicted, the interruption to the nation’s glatt kosher meat supply, and the massive chilul Hashem caused by all of the above.

He’s not alone, of course. Some of Rubashkin’s many supporters have characterized the many accusations as a “blood libel,” and chalked the whole affair up to good old anti-Semitism.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which has been hounding the Rubashkins for years, stirred up a lot of this fuss by calling to the attention of the authorities the plant’s many deficiencies. In the end, it seems, the union will win.

A knowledgeable source told The Jewish Star Tuesday that the OU would like to see the plant unionized under new management, and has been speaking with the union.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, the OU’s rabbinic administrator declined to confirm that he’s been speaking to the union, but did reaffirm the threat he made back in May, reported in The Jewish Star, that he would remove the OU hashgacha from Rubashkin products in the event of criminal indictments.

“We’re standing with that position,” he said Tuesday. Unless new management is brought in, a new CEO and new investors, he will pull the hechsher. He said the Rubashkins have two weeks.

As far as the OU is concerned, the For Sale sign is hanging at the Postville plant.

“People have been interested in coming in and so on — we’ve been probing and looking — but the stated issue didn’t change: there’s got to be new management,” Rabbi Genack said. In the end the Rubashkin family would probably become minority owners.

Why not act immediately?

“The question is the timeframe, only because Yom Tov is upon us. The kashrus was never compromised,” Rabbi Genack said. He added that the OU is concerned with the welfare of the workers, and the families of the shochtim and mashgichim in Postville.

A union spokesman, Scott Frotman, applauded the indictment and said, “Given the seriousness and sheer number of charges, we cannot see how this company can remain in operation with the current ownership.” He confirmed that the union has been in talks with the OU.

Getting back to our short conversation with Abraham Rubashkin, we weren’t expecting a tearful telephone confession, but his absolute certainty that there’s no merit at all to any of this would seem to more than justify what’s been said and done so far, and what’s apparently about to happen next.

The shame of it is, it didn’t have to come to this.

“These are not bad people but they’re just so sloppy,” said Rabbi Genack. “And because they messed up so many times, they’re just piling on.”

Several messages left for Rabbi Menachem Meir Weissmandl, who also provides a hashgacha on the Postville plant, were not returned.

(Click HERE to be redirected to the Jewish Star website)


48 COMMENTS

  1. It is possible all these charges can be dropped, and I hope they are. The govt is coming off way heavy handed. It is not like these labor infractions involved crimes against these workers and children. They wanted to work there.

    With things like child abuse, human slave trade in the US, drug smuggling, corruption with banking and mortgages, etc, you would think the government would crack down heavy in those areas.

    I think Jewish organizations should investigate into any bias in pursuing this case.

  2. If Klal Yisroel would pay as much attention to commercial and business ethics and to midos as we do to skirt length and Avraham Fried this entire sad story would never have happened. The Klal of today has been corrupted by money and by a triumphal racist sense of superiority over all others – no matter how loud are the shouts of “anti-semitin,” we did this to ourselves . . . and by the tone of many bloggers here and elsewhere we continue to do so.

  3. “just so sloppy” – is actually a very good defense in a criminal case (incompetence is not a crime), but doesn’t help in terms of a civil case, or in terms of convincing people that your hecksher is good. OU can claim that the kashruth isn’t an issue, but what frum person can trust a butcher who is admitedly guilty of poorly supervising their non-Jewish workers (and that assumes the PETA pictures are forgeries).

  4. “The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which has been hounding the Rubashkins for years, stirred up a lot of this fuss…”

    SO, NOW THE TRUTH IS COMING OUT. THIS ATTACK ON RUBASHKIN IS PART OF AN ONGOING UNION ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN.

    Anyone who has ever visited a meat packing plant will be shocked by the bloody mess that you will find there. It is not for the faint of heart.

    It’s very easy to point to this and shock the ignorant public. In reality, that’s what ALL meatpackers do. Killing animals is a bloody business.

    SHAME ON THE COWARDS AT O-U FOR THROWING AN EHRLICHE YID,RUBASHKIN, “UNDER THE BUS” TO PROTECT THEIR VAST CORPORATE INTERESTS.

  5. The innocence or guilt of Agriprocessors will be proven in court. In the meantime, it is worthwhile to reflect upon our adherence to civil laws and civic responsibilities. To those who take lightly civil ordinances and requirements, whether state, local, or Federal, and whose bad acts reflect poorly on Jewish people as a whole, I have one thing to say:

    You’re ruining it for the rest of us.

  6. BS”D

    He confirmed that the union has been in talks with the OU.
    —————
    What is going on here? Did Agri ask them to act as an intermediary (which is plausible)?

    If not then this is beyond chutzpah and beyond belief – or the union rep is lying.

  7. Perhaps the best thing that the OU can do is to sit and wait until after Sukkos. Give the lawyers some time and let’s see how many of these counts are dismissed. Then, when the dust settles, let’s see if there really were problems or it was all fabricated as an attempt to run the Rubashkins out of business. Even if they were guility of a few errors, let’s give it some time and make sober judgement calls. And we should also remmeber that any decisions made in haste at this point will have implications to many innocents, including the non-Jews who are working there, their suppliers, as well as kosher consumers.

  8. I agree with Yonason. This is a sad day, not because of what has befallen the Rubashkin’s. but because of our inability to see that we brought this down on ourselves. This is not Russia and the Prsident of the United States is not the Tzar. We are citizens of nation of laws, and when you violate those laws and are caught, you pay the price.This whole sad story wasn’t caused by anti-semitin, or unions, or PETA, or anyone else. It was caused by greed and a failure to operate a company derech eretz. Other kosher companies seem to be able to survive in the competitive market place honestly. One would suspect that Agri could have done so as well. It is sad they chose not to do so.

  9. One pertinent question: If the OU wants to removes its hashgachah because, allegedly, you can’t trust the kashrus of the plant, why didn’t the OU mashgiach on site at Agri notice these problems before? If, indeed, there were serious infractions, and the OU paid no attention, why trust the OU hashgachah?

  10. Yonason
    We did what to ourselves? You again are assuming guilt.

    You are guilty of projecting your own theories for rationalizing people’s faults in general terms.

    Perhaps you do find infractions among us in business ethics but so too the rest of the world. It is perhaps BECAUSE WE DON’T THINK OF OURSELVES AS SUPERIOR, OR CHOSEN, THAT WE THINK WE CAN DO IT IF THEY CAN DO IT.

    If we would recognize our specific mission in the world as a people then each one of us would behave more appropriately, regardless of our motivation to do otherwise

  11. One can only hope the OU will itself live up to the standard it is holding agri to. How many of us know mashgichim who are working illegally? as always seems to be the case it is easier to hold others to a higher standard-
    I wish agri will teach the self rightious fakes a lesson and close tomorrow- let’s see how much we all care about these alleged crimes when we are paying $22 a pound for chulent meat with cash we managed to hide from the government and yeshivas

  12. #6 said, “The innocence or guilt of Agriprocessors will be proven in court.” Yeah, right. Just as the corrupt jury let O J Shimshon – a known and proven cold-blooded murderer – walk. And the other black (L Nelson)who killed the Lubavitcher bochur in cold blood in Crown Heights with plenty of witnesses watching (while the black mayor at the time – David Dinkins – instructed New York’s Finest to “let them vent”) was also found “not guilty”. Yup, I’m sure that the frum people who LOWERED THE PRICES OF GLATT KOSHER MEAT AND POULTRY for all of klal Yisroel will get a fair trial against the powerful Union, right.

    By the way, I’m not surprised at the O-U (Orthodox Union) being in cahoots with the Union… after all, it’s not called the Orthodox UNION for nothing! And who needs the O-U anyway? Kashrus Magazine has a list of over NINE HUNDRED hashgochos, many of which are just as reliable or more reliable than the O-U. I don’t appreciate the O-U’s policy of never printing a ‘DE’ on packaging (though just about every other hechshur does) and the unwillingness to provide that information on the O-U web site [(it took years until I discovered that Oreos were actually DE (ta’am milchig) rather than ‘D’ (milchig)]

    As far as I’m concerned, unions in the USA have outlived their useful purposes. I work in an industry that doesn’t have unions; if I don’t like my job, I’m free to look for another one. The same should be for kosher meat slaughterhouses.

  13. Nishgetoigen – I’m nearly 60 and have been around maybe a lot longer than you. Unfortunately, my comments come from decades of experiences with chareidishe businesses and, I am sad to say, some with mosdos, all to ready to cheat the government or mistreat employees in the name of “greater” objectives.

  14. This article left out a very pertinent fact.

    The other HashGoCha at Rubashkin is staying put. Rabbi Weissmandel of Monsey is maintaining his HashGoCha, because the meat is Kosher, and he is not a politician who gets involved in union politics

  15. What have Rabbis Shaafran,Zweibel,Lubinsky,Lerner,Eliezrie or any other of the genetleman who toured Agriprocessors on July 25th have to say about the new charges?

  16. veryinteresting #1 – You commented that “It is not like these labor infractions involved crimes against these workers and children. They wanted to work there.” Think about this for a minute; is concensual labor of a 14 year old any more a valid consent than would be consensual intimate relations? I would hope you would agree that it is proper to treat relations with a 14 year old as a crime, irrespective of “consent” – and I argue that the same principle applies here.

  17. Yonason – The difference is if your outlook is based upon eternal halacha or corrupt secular law as defined by corrupt lawmakers. Al pi din, a person is an adult at 13 and could both work and get married by that time.

    Veryinteresting was pointing out that someone under 18 or even 16 is quite capable of working (and in fact allowed in various States.)

  18. Moshe Kapora #16. You say “As far as I’m concerned, unions in the USA have outlived their useful purposes. I work in an industry that doesn’t have unions; if I don’t like my job, I’m free to look for another one. The same should be for kosher meat slaughterhouses.” Many of the working conditions that we take for granted, including the regulated work week, paid vacatiuons, workman’s comp, maternity leave, and reasonable accomodation for Shabbos observance, to name a few, were won initially by unions through collective bargaining – long before they became legal norms. Today they are in the forfront on issues such as medical insurance, environmental work hazards, service hours for transportation workers and the like. Baruch Hashem for unions – You need to study up on your labor history.

  19. TikvaWay, please show me where in SA there is a halachic difference between the laws of Russia and the USA. Please stop making up a new Torah. Even if the charges are true (and so far I assume they are not), Rubashkin did nothing wrong, and the OU action is completely unjustified. Oh well, lo mipihem onu chayim. We didn’t eat Rubashkin before because of the OU hechsher, and we won’t stop because of the lack of the OU hechsher. R Weissmandl is the main machshir there anyway, and real Jews, i.e. those who are not just Americans of the Mosaic Persuasion, will continue to eat it.

  20. Joseph – 1. “Corrupt” secular law in this medina shell chesed protects juveniles from abuse, ensures your religious liberty, gives you remedies against misconduct by police and government, gives you the confidence that you can rant against the state without fear of retribution, and provided the warm harbor to which Jews continue to immigrate from less pleasant places. Al pi halocha, I suppose you have no issue with malchusa dinah malchus . . . and finally, I doubt you are the father of young adolescents . . . how else could you be so cavalier about issues of juvenile consent.

  21. Yonason – Your assumptions are mistaken.

    Yes this is a medinah shel chesed. And even in a secular medinah shel chesed, the lawbreakers, I mean lawmakers and courts are corrupt. Take a look how frequently politicians are busted and are disgraced or jailed. Take a look at how the guilty are acquitted (Lemrick Nelson, OJ Simpson) and the innocent are convicted (everyday you hear stories of people having spent 20+ years in prison before they are found innocent — how many more were innocent but never exonerated?)

    Yes, this is a medinah shel chesed. Yes, we must be grateful. But no, do not mistake this environment with being the redemption or anything close to true justice as provided by the Torah Hakedosha.

  22. Yonason #23: I never said that unions were not necessary. What I did say was that they have grown corupt and have outlived their useful purposes. I feel that there is no need for them today. So please don’t misquote me and then tell me that I “need to study up on (my) labor history.” One need look no further than the Teachers’ Union and the many teachers that are misrepresented by that union.

  23. Moshe Kapora #27 – If your gripe is with the teachers, so be it . . . but your prat-klal-gournisht attack on unions generally neither follows logically nor is it fair to many a good and hard working labor union.

  24. Come now Joseph – I never intimated thar our legal system is the redemption!? I just object to your broad stroke comment that it is corrupt – halevei beis dinim in Amerika were so corrupt

  25. Yonason –

    If you have any idea how corrupt the legal (and political) system in America (or any country) is, you would swear by the Butei Dinim, which are not a fraction of the corruption of the secular courts.

  26. Yonason,

    I’m sorry, but I am FRUM and a REPUBLICAN and I don’t approve of the tactics that present-day unions in general use, and of the harm that they have caused countless hard-working, tax-paying Americans. The Teachers’ Union was but one example (Dr. Laura has quite a bit to say about that union.) Also, expressly because of the corrupt unions in New York City, it costs far more to build a building in NYC than anywhere else in the country. This is great for the corrupt union leaders, but not for the rank and file.

    Perhaps Yonason’s liberalism would be more appropriate for another, less frum site, but not for YWN.

    So far Yonason has begged to differ with: Veryinteresting, Joseph, Moshe Kapora, and Nishgetoigen. Can we all be mistaken while Yonason has the Truth? I doubt it. Anyway, perhaps we should all load up our freezers NOW with meat and poultry before the prices continue to escalate.

  27. Yonason, do you agree with the USA legal system that promotes same-gender “marriage,” on-demand abortion, lack of school choice for the hard-working and the over-taxed middle class (having to pay double to educate one’s children)? I think I’ll stick to the Torah’s system and ideals, thank you.

    All kosher meat-eaters have benefited from Agriprocessors lowering the price of kosher meat and fowl; that is a fact.

    Interestingly, the same people who cursed out the Star-K and other hashgochos for daring to not allow mixed-dancing on the Glatt Yacht or at other venues, who don’t allow tv’s on the premises of restaurants that they certify, etc. are among the first to cry “foul” regarding NON-KASHRUS issues at Agriprocessors. Interesting, no? Either the products coming out of Agriprocessors are kosher or they aren’t. I feel that the O-U has no business mixing kashrus issues with political/union non-kashrus issues. Better they shouldn’t empower child molesters such as Rabbi Lanner to molest children for many years under the O-U’s careful watch.

  28. The OU’s policy of not writing DE is based on the halachic ruling of Rav Shachter, who, together with Rav Belsky, answers all of their halachic inquiries. This ruling was also told TO THEM by Rav Elyashiv, and is printed in the OU Madrich. You would prefer that they not listen to them simply because the OK and Kof K write DE? BTW in Igros Moshe it is clearly stated that DE has the same status as D for someone who does not drink CY. The OU also feels that they cannot reliably guaranty that it is only DE and there is no residue left unless they do a full kosherization. They say that this is their experience, but you feel that they should still write it simply because others do!

  29. Baki,

    The fact is that the OU will tell one if a particular product is really ‘DE’ and not ‘D’, as such as Oreos. This is important information for those of us who only use cholev Yirsoel products, but do use ta’am milchig products (products that are parve but were prepared in non-cholev Yisroel milchig kelim). If the OU has that information (which apparently they do), then what is the big deal with throwing it up on the OU’s kashrus database web site? Why not have a list of all OU-D products that are truly OU-DE on the OU web site? I don’t feel that’s too much to ask. I don’t believe that the OU is any more reliable than the OK, Kof-K, Star-K, etc. I do think that the kosher consumer is entitled to as much information as possible.

  30. Joseph #26 said …
    Take a look how frequesntly politicans are busted and are disgraced or jailed.”

    Hmmm. Probably a little less frequesntly then frum yiddin are caught stealing from their investors (Allou), or Rabbis are brought up on charges of molestation, or stam yidden are illegally on food stamps, or ….

    This may not be the goldena medinah our parents thought it would be and justice may be imperfect -perps may walk – but if you worked at Agri you’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see violations of Torah. Kashrus is all about trust. If the owners lie about children working in the plant, if they lie about undocumented workers to whom they sold id’s, then what else do they lie about? Remember Rav Wiessmandl said none of his Rabbis were stationed in the packaging room. So who knows if treif meat got mixed up with glatt? Its clear Rav Wiessmandl doesn’t know.

    The OU has taken the first step in coming to grips with the chillul haShem that ocurred under the umbrella of their hasgocha. Good for them. Now its time to see them take action.

    And its time for Rav Wiessmandl to justify his position. Or, maybe like Rav Zeilingold, he’s legally blind.

  31. My learned colleague Moshe Kapora – I was raised in the 50s, and I remember “Restricted” signs on businesses, signs that meant “No Jews.” And I remember that it was a progressive liberal civil rights movement that changed that. I know that I can wear my black hat and wear my tzistzis out working in a law enforcement agency because of a liberal political tradition of tolerance. I know too that the Torah does not condone exploitive child labor, and that it does not make you more frum when you support here, among our own, a company with the labor history of Agriprocessors – that it is not Torah to treat non-jewish employees with less kovid than is due an animal. And I know racism and intolerance when I see it, even when it hides under a yarmulka. And I won’t engage in the kind of ad hominum personal attack that you do, for that too is not Torah.

  32. #27
    “One need look no further than the Teachers’ Union and the many teachers that are misrepresented by that union.”

    Should read “One need look no further than the Teachers’ Union and the many mis-teachers that are represented by that union.”

  33. Tikva Way/#35,

    Your low opinion of your fellow Jew is unwarranted. There are far more corrupt politicians, numerically and percentage, than frum yidden BY FAR.

    And you are a nobody to demand Rav Weissmandl “justify his position.”

  34. Tikvah Way #35 – Don’t pay Joseph any mind – yesterday he posted saying he wants me booted off the site because I am in appropriate for a frum site.

    And Joseph . . you amaze me – if I listen to your and similar posts: the Torah says that a girl is an adult at 12, and therefore concern for child labor and 14 year olds is anti-Torah; Dov Hikind’s project is shmutz and violates tznius; the victims who make molestation allegations are fried-out low lifes attacking upgehitten Rabbanim; Mishmeres Hatznius may be a bit over-zealous, but they are needed to get rid of mamzeres garbage that is threatening the Torah way of life; and Agriprocessors is a besieged bastion of Torah, besieged by G-dless left wing unions and self-hating Jews who care more for low-life goyim than they do Yiddin. Some Light onto The Nations!!

  35. To Yonason

    please Joseph and others like him dictate their live according to the Torah. I am sure if he has a 13 year old daughter or son he would sand does threat them like adults. And ig tommorow they would go to him and say, I found a boy or girl i like and I want to marry them now. I am sure he would say, you are an adult by Torah, so you have my blessing an adult can make their own decision.

    And if his son would say hey dad, I can get a job at Rubashkin, he would be overjoyed and say, what can I do the Torah says your are an adult and can make adult decision.

    Not only that he would not say a word that rubaskin cheated his son out of wages, nor would he be mad that he is working in hazardous condition with no safety control put in place like other slaughterhouse. He would look at the tiorath for answer and say he is an adult and made adult decision.

  36. Why would the OU threaten to abandon other yidden like this — and on only an indictment — guilty before the case is even heard??

    They backed off from supporting Gush Katif also.
    They shouldn’t be mixing politics with religion like this — at least not in public.

    If anyone wants to contact them to protest this action, their website is ou.org.

  37. Yonason: You say you object to unions because they cause increase in costs. Presumably you prefer the hiring of illegal aliens at rock bottom prices. I have two thoughts: one is that the relative ease for Jews to observe Shabbos in this country now is a direct result of union fights for a five-day workweek decades ago. My wife’s grandmother was a seamstress for the Triangle Shirtwaist company and did not die in the famous fire because it was on Shabbos, and she refused to go to work on that day. But, like many people who were observant then, she was frequently fired because of that refusal to work on Saturdays and had to look for new work. She was an early member of the ILGWU which brought great reform to the workplace. So, while we all thank Hashem for the six day workweek, we can thank the unions in America for the five-day workweek. Don’t forget that.

    As for the fact that unions increase costs; that’s true today, and it was true in the days of the Temple. Two families acted as de fact unions or guilds that affected the Holy Temple. One family, the Gemara says, was expert at making the incense that would consistently rise in a perfectly shaped cloud, and another family had exclusive control of making the shoo bread. When the sages tried to break these unions/monopolies (a union is essentially a collection of workers that apart have no economic power, but together do, like a monopoly) but the effect was a disaster and the old families were begged to return to their jobs, even at the higher salaries. The lesson is that when you use cheap labor, sometimes you get what you pay for.

  38. baruchgershom,

    You got the Gemorah wrong. The Gemorah severely CRITICIZES that family (that you compare to the union) for its tactics. So hence by your argument, the Gemorah is ANTI-UNION.

    The union are thugs who have been losing members for decades. The percentage of unionized workers in America, has been in the decline since the 1950’s. Currently in the private sector it stands at about 10%, down from perhaps 60% 50 or so years ago.

    The union thugs are responsible for a great number of job losses. For example Eastern Airlines (and other airline) closed down due to a strike. This is a common thread in union history. Thank Hashem for companies like Caterpillar (and President Reagan during the air union strike) broke their unions and went non-union.

    BTW, are you kidding, your comment is so off the wall and lacks any intellect.

  39. Acutaully baruchgershom has it right. The Gemorah says that the Rabbonim who who made the decision state that the family of bakers was in the right. This can be seen as a type of “patent” protection insuring the livelihood of the bakers would not be lost. Zalman is trying to reinterpret the Gemorah to support his anti-union bias.

  40. Actually Zalman has it right. The family WAS SEVERELY CRITICIZED by the Rabbonim and the Gemorah for having kept the method secret and not shared it.

    In fact after they dies, the method was lost forever since they never taught it to others. The family went down in Jewish infamy as a result.

  41. So Chuck:
    Why did the Rabbonim rule in favor of the family?They could have ruled that the family had to turn over the receipe. Doesn’t sound like a “SEVER CRITICISM” to me. Sounds like a ruling that you can’t take the parnasa away from someone without just cause.