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Postville property company ends contract with Agriprocessors staffing agency
Some Agriprocessors employees may soon be paying less for housing.
GAL Investments, a property management company in Postville with roughly 60 properties, has notified tenants that it will be ending its relationship with Jacobson Staffing Company. Employees at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant who are working under Jacobson will no longer have rents deducted from payroll, but will pay the fees directly to GAL.
According to Ryan Regenold, a spokesman for the Des Moines-based Jacobson Staffing, his company has roughly 90 employees currently with Agriprocessors who will be impacted by the decision. Regenold confirmed the contract would be ending on Sept. 30, but otherwise had little to say.
A spokewoman in the GAL Investment office said ending the contract was a “mutual decision” that she felt would better serve the tenants. A letter from GAL owner Gabay Menachem informing tenants of the change was circulated to the affected homes in Postville on Friday.
Jacobson will continue to provide employees to Agriprocessors, according to Regenold.
One Force Staffing, another company which has brought workers to Agriprocessors, has its own contract with GAL Investments. According to the GAL spokeswoman, that contract is not ending and will continue.
A job posting by One Force on the Career Builder web site aimed at potential employees in Convington, Kentucky lists housing accomodations in Postville at a cost of $100 per week, a sum that is deducted from upcoming paychecks. The listing also states that potential employees will be provided one-way transporation from Kentucky to Iowa for a $75 fee, which is also deducted from a future paycheck. Potential employees who wish to return to Kentucky must pay their own way.
Patrick Massey, director of operations for One Force, said that the company’s new employee retention rate at the plant has been good.
“If I lose placements out of Agri, it is normally within the first two weeks of someone being there,” Massey said. “That’s because people get there and get homesick, or realize they didn’t want to move that far away, or thought the job would be different than it turned out to be. People have their own expectations of what it will be like in Postville before they go and then, sometimes, they get there and it’s different, so they want to go home. If they stay past those first two weeks, my retention rate is about 95 percent. Looking at it overall, I’d guess that the retention rate for people who come and stay is about 70 percent — but that’s just an educated guess.”
The paycheck garnishments for rental fees and other fees have come under fire from the media because some plant employees have shown paycheck stubs with several hours worked, but no or few wages earned due to the fees. In addition, some of the workers have reported low living conditions — few furnishings, faulty utilities or other problems.
Nine students from Kyrgyzstan reported paying $2,025 per month for a home in Postville that had no hot water, a broken bathroom and little furniture. Eight men from the tropical island of Palau said they worked at the meatpacking plant and shared a home there. With each man having $100 per week garnished from his pay for rent, the sparsely furnished home is gathering nearly $3,500 per month.
Getzel Rubashkin, grandson of Agriprocessors company founder Aaron Rubashkin, has been quick to point out that the money being collected each week also often includes utilities. Such claims, however, have done little to calm critics.
Jacobson employees who choose to continue to live in their current housing and pay directly to GAL Investments will likely see a reduction in their living expenses. One employee reported that his weekly fee would be reduced from $100 to $60. Another man said he would pay only $45 per week after the change.
The City of Postville does not currently have a housing code that regulates rental properties, but that might soon be changing. Officials are currently working with both landlords and tenants to draft policies in relation to rental properties.