Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Continuing Saga of Agriprocessors

Child LabourImage via WikipediaContinued Fallout From Unethical Behavior at Agriprocessors

The May 2008 immigration raid at the Agriprocessors meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa continues to spawn bizarre news. I have blogged previously about employees in the Human Resources department at Agriprocessors being charged and entering guilty pleas.

The son of owner Aaron Rubashkin, and former company CEO Sholom Rubashkin has been in jail for over a month, awaiting trial on numerous charges related to violations of immigration law and child labor law. A judge denied his appeal for bail this week due to concerns he is a potential flight risk.

And while Rubashkin can't get out of jail for fear he may flee the country, some of his former workers are stuck in the United States living in the street and owed hundreds of dollars wages they are owed after traveling from the island of Palau in the Pacific to work at Agriprocessors in Iowa.

A group of 160 Palauns in the United States are facing huge financial difficulties after losing their jobs at a kosher meat processing plant. Agriprocessors Limited in the midwestern state of Iowa shut last month, leaving several hundred people unemployed and unpaid.

The Palauns were left in a particularly vulnerable position because they were relying on Agriprocessors to pay their rent. However, the company did not do any of those things and on November 8th when many of the Palauns missed their pay checks, their landlords also missed their rent payments and the utility companies missed their payments and many of the Palauns were faced with being on the street and having their utilities shut off.

Some landlords agreed to leave the apartments open, and many of the Palauns doubled up on accommodation. However, about 40 others did find themselves homeless. The community organised for them to sleep on mattresses in the skating rink in until a temporary shelter was set up in a church.

They spent several weeks there, depending on donations for food and living expenses.

Since then about a dozen of those workers have decided to return to Palau, while others have left to stay with family members and friends in other parts of the United States.

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