Reading the news on JTA, I came across this story.
In an effort to restore lagging production at its plant in Postville, Iowa, the country’s largest kosher meat producer has been hiring workers from homeless shelters in Texas to replace employees detained in a massive federal immigration raid last month.
Ok, this sounds decent. They’re helping people find employment, moving them to a town with housing. At first glance, this could be a positive step in restoring Rubashkin’s reputation.
Several officials in Postville say the new arrivals have created problems for the town.
Postville Police Chief Michael Halse told JTA that his officers had arrested four plant workers for disorderly conduct this week.
Father Paul Ouderkirk, leader of the local Catholic church, which has played a lead role in helping former workers and their families after last month’s raid, said a mentally challenged woman from Texas had come to his church looking for help with prescription medications.
And in an interview Friday with Postville’s local radio station, Diana Morris said she spent three days on a bus from Amarillo only to discover she was expected to live with 10 men in a four-bedroom house that had no electricity or hot water.
“Amarillo’s homeless problem has become Postville’s homeless problem,” Jeff Abbas, who runs the KPVL radio station, told JTA.
Um… crap. And…
In her interview with Abbas, Morris described how she was recruited from Amarillo with about 15 others and given a Greyhound bus ticket and $15 dollars to pay for food during the 1,000-mile journey. She said she was promised 30 days of free housing as well as a $100 bonus upon arrival.
What made the offer so attractive, Morris said, was the $10 per hour that Agriprocessors is now offering. “Everything down there is about $6 an hour being paid, and that’s the minimum wage,” she said of Texas.
That’s not a lot of money for 1,000 miles of travel. A quick check on Greyhound shows that the trip from Amarillo to Waterloo, IA takes 1 day, 1 hour, and 55 minutes (and then another 77 miles to Postville). In other words, a couple coffees, sodas, and a bag of chips for 28ish hours. Nutritious!
It’s great to hear that Rubashkins will be paying their employees a better wage than before, but the living conditions are unacceptable. And, if you read the full article, you’ll see that the people are being shipped to Iowa and then being screened for hiring. Why not screen them in Texas first? Why are they using two intermediary agencies (a recruiting firm in Texas and a staffing firm in Iowa)? Couldn’t the recruiting and screening be done by the same firm in Texas, before these people are moved 1,000 miles?
Do we think Agriprocessors is actually going to make good on its promise to improve working conditions? 150 replacement staff were removed by their staffing firm a couple weeks after the initial raid. Within days of starting work, a group of Native Americans who had been brought in to staff the factory left, saying conditions were worse than expected. Now these Texans… were they recruited because word of the scandal hadn’t spread to them? Will they be able to leave if the conditions still haven’t improved?
[Full article on JTA.]