Nearly $10 Million State Fine Adds to Agriprocessors' Woes
A record fine for alleged illegal deductions from workers' pay and for other alleged wage violations was assessed against Agriprocessors Inc. on Oct. 29 by Iowa Labor Commissioner Dave Neil, who said the Postville, Iowa, meatpacking company “once again . . . has demonstrated a complete disregard for Iowa law." Neil also said, "This continued course of violations is a black mark on Iowa's business community."
Agriprocessors is the nation's largest kosher meatpacking operation. It made national headlines May 12 when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 389 workers -- the largest criminal work site immigration enforcement operation in U.S. history, U.S. Attorney Matt M. Dummermuth said when he announced 297 of the 389 people arrested had pleaded guilty to federal felony charges.
A report in today's Des Moines Register suggests the plant may close as a result of the large state fine, and it lists other recent state actions against the meatpacker: a $101,000 fine in August for 31 alleged violations of workplace safety regulations, and the plant's owner, Abraham Aaron Rubashkin; his son, Sholom Rubashkin; human resources manager Elizabeth Billmeyer; and human resources employees Laura Althouse and Karina Freund charged in September with 9,311 child-labor violations involving 32 minors. The state alleged under-age workers were exposed to hazardous chemicals and allowed to operate power-driven machinery.
The ICE immigration investigation involved the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the Iowa Department of Transportation, the FBI, the IRS, and the U.S. Department of Labor.