The ICE raid on Agriprocessors, Inc."s kosher meat-packing plant in Postville, IA, has set off a debate between Conservative and Orthodox Jewish organizations on the ethics of the plants treatment of workers. Already federal and state agencies have cited the plant for violations of child labor, wage and hour, and safety laws. Agriprocessors has not acknowledge any wrong-doing, but has changed policy and practices to compile with immigration and labor laws. Conservative rabbis had joined the demonstration in July, asking for food processing that followed not just kosher rules but also justice. Many Orthodox have since rabbis rallied to Agriprocessors side, toured the plant recently and found it "kosher". (See NY Times article.)
The debate within the Jewish community points up to a larger issue in the plight of the undocumented -- exploitation. The Postville raid, along with the herding of the detained into a stock yard and a swift processing of the undocumented workers as felons, is only most egregious injustice. Just as painful is the fear the families of the undocumented have to live with and the exploitation workers must accept to find work and avoid detection. Postville -- at least prior to the raid -- was a good example of such -- workers under-aged, unpaid overtime, neglect of safety regulations. As we approach Labor Day, the plight of the undocumented seems to mirror more and more the struggles of earlier generations of immigrants in the workplace. More than one observer has referred to Postille as "The Jungle revisited", recalling Upton Sinclair's novel about the shocking conditions of workers in the Chicago stock yards.