Photo Credit: Rabbi Hanoch Teller

As soon as the Iowa Department of Labor (IDOL) informed Agri that they had learned that the plant was in violation of child labor laws on April 2, 2008 Shalom Rubashkin invited them to enter the plant without a warrant to search for minors which they did. IDOL did not report to Agri about the detection of any minors. In a communication from Agri lawyers dated April 28, 2008 they stated that they were not aware of any minors who lied about their age in order to work, but if IDOL knew otherwise, they should inform them so that they could terminate their employment.

IDOL did not respond, and knowingly allowed minors to continue to work in violation of State Law. IDOL’s agenda, apparently, was to permit these minors to continue to work irrespective of the law so that a large – indeed colossal – work force complaint could be lodged, for the government reckons each day that a child works as a separate violation. Enough violations would accrue to pin an indictment that would be so gargantuan that it would shock-and-awe, bringing about the company’s downfall and in the process acquire an enormous fine for the state coffers.

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During immigration proceedings regarding minor employees at Agri, Iowa Labor Commissioner David Neil claimed that the company subjected them to blackmail, extortion, false imprisonment, felonious assault, being held hostage, involuntary servitude, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, peonage, slave trade, torture, trafficking, and unlawful criminal restraint. This reads like a rap sheet from an NKVD labor camp on the worst of days, but still IDOL permitted these minors to continue to work at Agri under these supposed conditions. Considering how heinous these allegations are, evidently the safety of the minors was secondary to the goal of bringing about Agri’s ruination and the fine revenue.

For almost six months after Shalom Rubashkin was told that he was a target of a federal criminal investigation, he remained in Postville, leaving only once for a brief visit to an infirmed friend in Canada, and returned promptly thereafter. Still, Shalom Rubashkin was treated like no other defendant arrested for immigration law violations. The federal prosecutors demanded, and the federal magistrate granted, that he be outfitted with an electronic ankle bracelet that is reserved only for those who it is feared will flee the country or may endanger others.

After Rubashkin was released from jail over the initial indictments concerning the employment of illegal immigrants, there was a gathering of his friends in the Postville synagogue. The party was intended to be nothing more than a thanksgiving celebration, but it was filmed and uploaded to the web.

For Shalom Rubashkin, this would be one more grave example of naiveté and absence of public relations sensitivity (albeit no one present realized that the video would be posted). The fallout from images of the Agri boss reveling at a time that supreme humility and laying low were incumbent, was explosive fodder in the hands of his ever-growing number of critics.

The Forward reporter Nathaniel Popper, who was at the forefront of wrecking the House of Rubashkin, reported on Nov 6, 2008:

“For residents in town, one of the primary flash points for anger was a celebration held by Jewish company executives on the night of October 30. At about the same time that the Jacobson staffing firm was suspending hundreds of workers, company executives gathered at the Postville synagogue. They were there to celebrate the release, on bail, of Shalom Rubashkin, the son of the company’s founder, who had been arrested on charges that he helped procure false identification for undocumented immigrants who worked at the Postville slaughterhouse.

“Video footage of the celebration showed Rubashkin and other members of the synagogue dancing and singing. At the local radio station, the confluence of the celebration and the bad news being delivered to the workers was the cause for on-air editorials by Abbas, who runs the radio station, KPVL, and who initially discovered the videos.

“‘They were just flaunting their arrogance and lack of concern for anyone else in this town,’” said Abbas. “‘I just do not understand these people.’”

The fact is, the overwhelming number of people who worked with or for Shalom Rubashkin, described him as kind and generous – and this was even borne out by witnesses for the prosecution in his trial – but, nonetheless, Rubashkin would never be able to shed the image of a conniving fiend, ready to profit at anyone’s expense. The very one who afforded American Jewry an enormous service by providing quality kosher meat at a reasonable price and with an attractive appearance, was vilified by plenty, even in the religious community, who preferred slander over his side of the story.

Chodesh Tov – Have a pleasant month!

(To be continued)

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