FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Raiding Big Meat; Arresting the Wrong People

You’d think the 290 Guatemalans, 93 Mexicans, 2 Israelis and 4 Ukrainians arrested and detained in Postville, Iowa on May 12 were working at a call center.

Instead of knockers, stickers, bleeders, tail rippers, flankers, gutters, sawers, and plate boners at the nation’s largest supplier of kosher beef, Agriprocessors, you’d think they were wearing demure headsets and taking overnight 800-number orders in particle board cubicles.

Reports describe the shock and awe raid–the choppers and hundreds of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents–and the 306 workers charged with possession of a counterfeit identification document, aggravated identity theft and misuse of a Social Security number.

They mention the harsh 5-month prison sentences detainees face, lack of due process and families torn apart–especially “unfair” says Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic advocacy in the Des Moines Register, because plant officials haven’t been charged.

Some reports even list Agriprocessors’ rich and varied history of environmental, humane, food safety and worker safety abuses which includes five employee amputations according to OSHA records.

But nowhere do reports mention the reason behind the raid: the only “meat” work Americans are willing to do is tending the barbecue.

This is not the first time Agriprocessors has been in the news.

Four years ago undercover investigators for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal (PETA) videotaped workers ripping tracheas out of conscious cattle and leaving them to thrash in their own blood on the floor at the same plant.

The investigation moved the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement to condemn Agriprocessors and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to launch its own investigation which found “acts of inhumane slaughter.”

Afterwards investigators Hannah and Philip Schein went public with their identity and the fact that they themselves keep kosher–though 70 percent of Agriprocessors meat is not kosher and sold as Iowa Best Beef Brand in Albertson’s Kroger, Shop Rite, Wal-Mart, Trader Joe’s, Ralph’s, Pathmark and H.E. Butt, probably right next to the dairy case.

Nor is this the first ICE raid at a meat plant in Iowa.

Agents raided a Swift & Co. plant in Marshalltown, Iowa in December 2006 along with Swift plants in five other states, arresting over 1,200 workers.

Agriprocessors’ choice of Postville as headquarters in 1987 which doubled the population of 1,400 reflects the national trend to “move slaughterhouses closer to the corn-fed, rich Midwestern beef,” says Stephen G. Bloom, author of Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, and a journalism teacher at the University of Iowa, in a Nieman Watchdog interview this month. “Fewer unions, cheaper land, less transportation costs, less government oversight,” are some of the advantages he says.

But even as the system of cheap meat fails and the balance of Postville’s work force heads toward Club Fed for doing the work Americans won’t, no one questions that the nation can’t afford its own meat habit if it enforces its own laws.

So while Iowa Governor Chet Culver says, “I believe it is important that we crack down on illegal immigration. Illegal means illegal” and Postville bloggers submit that illegals “raise our health care costs” and “should go home and come back legally,” the real message comes from Marshalltown Mayor Gene Beach.

A year and a half after the raid, he can’t say for sure if Swift–which is back to full production–has hired more undocumented workers reports KCRG-TV. But in the surrounding community Mayor Beach says, “I’m certain there are undocumented workers.”

MARTHA ROSENBERG is staff cartoonist on the Evanston Roundtable. She can be reached at mrosenberg@evmark.org

 

More articles by:

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
January 28, 2020
Patrick Cockburn
China’s Coronavirus Outbreak Reminds Me of the Irish Polio Epidemic I Survived
P. Sainath
Making Rebellion Attractive: Why the Establishment Still Hates John Reed
Geoff Dutton
Where Was Rudy Giuliani When Democrats Needed Him?
Sam Pizzigati
The Evolution of “Davos Man” into . . . Trump Fan!
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Truth a Major Casualty of Impeachment Hearings
Michael Welton
Autobiographical Roots of Habermas’ Thought
Greta Anderson
Remove the Livestock, Not the Wolves
Nick Pemberton
Sorry Chomsky and Friends, The Green Party isn’t the Problem
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s Feeble Phase 1 China-US Trade Deal
Mike Garrity – Jason Christensen
Natural Gas Pipeline Corridor Threatens Imperiled Species and Inventoried Roadless Areas
Daniel Falcone
Make America Radical Again: A Conversation with Harvey J. Kaye
Binoy Kampmark
Split Hearings: the Assange Extradition Case Drags On
Eric Toussaint
Greece: a Chronology From January 25, 2015 to 2019
Nino Pagliccia
An Open Letter to Justin Trudeau on Venezuela
Robert Hunziker
Reflections of a Scientific Humanist
Jeffrey St. Clair
Who Cares If It Leaks? An Afternoon at Hollyhock House
January 27, 2020
Peter Harrison
Adani and the Purpose of Education
Dean Baker
Can Manufacturing Workers Take Many More of Trump’s Trade “Victories”?
Robert Fisk
Trump in Davos: US isolationism is Reaching Its Final Narcissistic Chapter
Ariel Dorfman
The Challenge for Chile and the World
Victor Grossman
The Misuses of Antisemitism in the UK and the USA
Thomas Knapp
Bernie Sanders, Joe Rogan, Human Rights Campaign, and Truth in Advertising
Fred Gardner
NewsGuard Can Save You From Putin!
Lawrence Wittner
A Historian Reflects on the Return of Fascism
Rose Miriam Elizalde
Cuba: a Matter of Principle
Bob Topper
The Better Moral Creed
George Wuerthner
Giving Cover to the Abuses of Big Ag
Christopher Packham
This is Really Happening
Negin Owliaei
Americans Need to Hear More From Iranians, Here’s Where to Start
Ted Rall
Corporate Crap That Doesn’t Kill Bernie
Elliot Sperber
Sunset’s Soon
Weekend Edition
January 24, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
A Letter From Iowa
Jim Kavanagh
Aftermath: The Iran War After the Soleimani Assassination
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Camp by the Lake
Chuck Churchill
The Long History of Elite Rule: What Will It Take To End It?
Robert Hunziker
A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed
Andrew Levine
Trump: The King
Jess Franklin
Globalizing the War on Indigenous People: Bolsonaro and Modi
James Graham
From Paris, With Tear Gas…
Rob Urie
Why the Primaries Matter
Dan Bacher
Will the Extinction of Delta Smelt Be Governor Gavin Newsom’s Environmental Legacy?
Ramzy Baroud
In the Name of “Israel’s Security”: Retreating US Gives Israel Billions More in Military Funding
Vijay Prashad
What the Right Wing in Latin America Means by Democracy Is Violence
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden’s Shameful Foreign Policy Record Extends Well Beyond Iraq
Louis Proyect
Isabel dos Santos and Africa’s Lumpen-Bourgeoisie
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail