Agriprocessors, the single largest kosher food production plant in the nation, was responsible (before the raid) for 60% of the nation's kosher beef and 40% of kosher poultry. Stories pour out of Postville about the inhumane treatment of the immigrant workers. Underage workers were arrested in the raids, some as young as 13. Many workers were forced to put in overtime without extra pay or breaks. Vulnerable people were exploited by religious business owners who systematically violated immigration and workplace laws, acting--as one union official put it--like "the poster child company on how to exploit a broken immigration system."
Two Jewish organizations helped sponsor the July 27 rally in Postville, IA to illustrate their concern that kosher food represent the Biblical value of righteousness, wraping the food in an ethical envelope. Allison's application of this principle extends to every human person:
If anything, the Postville raid has opened up conversations about how people of faith look at the products they consume and the value we place on the treatment of those who prepare it. We should not allow this issue to focus on just the kosher meat industry. Rather, we should be compelled to look at where all our food comes from and explore ways to spend our dollars that support businesses that treat their employees with dignity and value justice in the workplace.
Organic or commercial?
Local or transported?
Processed or natural?
Free range or factory farmed?
Picked by whom? At what wage? In what kind of conditions?
Food is basic to life and inseparable from social justice.
illustration caption: T-shirt logo seen in Postville, IA. "Aaron's Best" is the brand name of the kosher meat.