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Culver compares Agriprocessors to Sinclair’s jungle, outlines state response
Iowa Gov. Chet Culver traveled back to his football roots to lay a little smack-down on the management of Agriprocessors in the guest column he penned for the Des Moines Register. Comparing the situation at Agriprocessors with novelist Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” and implying that management at the kosher plant have opted to travel a ‘low road,’ Culver outlined his response and continued action in relation to the plant.
Before the federal raid, Agriprocessors already had a history of sanctions by Iowa’s state regulatory agencies for water pollution, as well as health and safety law violations. Alarming information about working conditions at the Postville plant – including allegations ranging from the use of child labor in prohibited jobs to sexual and physical abuse by supervisors; from the nonpayment of regular and overtime wages to the denial of immediate medical attention for workplace injuries – brought to national attention by the raid forces me to believe that, in contrast to our state’s overall economic-development strategy, this company’s owners have deliberately chosen to take the low road in its business practices.
I believe Iowa businesses should take the high road by following the law.
Culver writes that he has directed Lis Buck, director of Iowa Workforce Development, to prohibit Agriprocessors listing open position on state job lists because of the “unsafe working conditions at the Postville facility.” He has also called on Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller to “prosecute all alleged criminal and civil-law violations that are backed by sufficient evidence.”
Agriprocessors has every resource at its disposal to be a good Iowa corporate neighbor – one that provides a safe workplace, pays good wages and benefits, protects our environment and respects the dignity of our workers. If its owners choose to operate in this manner, they will find a skilled work force ready to join this company. I want to publicly ask Agriprocessors to “take the high road” and join the family of responsible businesses in Iowa.
To date, in public statements, Agriprocessors’ owners have denied any wrongdoing related to their business practices. They are entitled to do so. Because of Iowa’s long history of clean and fair regulatory and judicial processes, companies like Agriprocessors, if accused of wrongdoing, will be afforded every due-process right to which they are entitled under law. But, at the end of the day, they must obey each and every law that protects workers and keeps our food supply safe.
There is little doubt that Culver will take a few hits of his own for writing this piece. Amid the truckloads of political contributions shelled out by the Rubashkins, the Hasidic Jewish family that owns Agriprocessors, to Republican candidates and political organizations, there are also a handful that went to Democratic office holders and candidates. In particular, $10,000 was given by Sholom and Leah Rubashkin in 2005 to the failed Democratic primary bid by now Lt. Gov. Patty Judge. At that time she was serving as the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and the contributions came roughly a year after she had toured the plant in the wake of allegations of animal mistreatment, providing a public and positive assessment of the ritual slaughter.
When Judge ended her gubernatorial bid and joined with Culver, Sholom Rubashkin, who was employed as the president of Agriprocessors, gave $3,000 to that ticket.
Jim Nussle, the former Republican congressman who launched an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid against the Culver-Judge ticket, was a much larger beneficiary of the Rubashkin family. In 2006, Sholom Rubashkin gave Nussle $22,500 to advance his gubernatorial bid. In addition, Abraham Rubashkin, listing both his previous Brooklyn, N.Y. and Postville addresses, provided $7,500 to the Nussle campaign.
Nussle, after being defeated by Culver, took a job as one of the top members of the Bush administration, serving as director of the Office of Management and Budget.