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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

crystal_sugar_80
By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

hermancain_80x80
By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

Postville property company ends contract with Agriprocessors staffing agency

By Lynda Waddington | 09.27.08 | 3:53 pm
Some Agriprocessors workers have complained that they are being required to pay too much money for sub-standard housing in Postville. This picture, first published on FailedMessiah.com and used with permission, was taken inside some of the "campus-style" housing.

Some Agriprocessors workers have complained that they are being required to pay too much money for sub-standard housing in Postville. This picture, first published on FailedMessiah.com and used with permission, was taken inside some of the "campus-style" housing in Postville.

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.

A laundry room in this Postville residence has become a bedroom. Some employees have complained they are paying too much for inferior living conditions.

A laundry room in this Postville residence has become a bedroom. Some employees have complained they are paying too much for inferior living conditions.

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.

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Comments

  • Getzel_Rubashkin

    This is unbelievable. This article is full of misrepresentations, starting from the headline, and includes a quote from me which is taken from comments on a blog, is totally out of context and misrepresented, and I will be contacting the reporter of this and her editor. I was not contacted for this story, I would not comment, since I am not a representative of the company and was asked not to comment. One more example of the outrageous treatment of this whole episode by the media.

  • craigede

    What Postville needs more than a housing code is a renters' rights organization that can provide information about how the various landlords treat their tenants so that renters can make informed decisions about who to rent from.

    I'd love to think that this was a move in the right direction by GAL to do the right thing. Maybe it is, but another factor might be that deducting money for rent from checks issued through Jacobsen Staffing makes it very easy to track who is being charged what and who is being paid the rents. Maybe it is seen as better if there is less transparency in thise transactions and that is the reason for the change.

    I spoke with a now-homeless woman brought up from Kentucky by a guy named Henry to work for Agriprocessors. She had been “sharing” a small ranch house in Postville with eight (8) others. She finally left, prefering to live on the street, after one of her roomates persisted in “relieving himself” in front of her in their shared bedroom. (The context implyed a sexual relief and not urination.)

    Her check stub, which she showed me, listed $100 a week being deducted for housing. Given that rate for her and her roommates, this small ranch house was bringing in $3600/month to this landlord, an amazing amount for housing in small town Iowa. I sincerely hope all this money is being tracked by the IRS and will be suitably taxed. Taking the rent payments off the check stubs will make tracking money paid to
    landlords harder to track, and it seems likely this is one motivation for doing so.

    St. Bridget's church is still paying a hefty amout for the rents of people under house arrest. I hope they see fit to supply this rental payment information to the IRS as well.

    Postville has a population of 2200. The May 12 raid resulted in 389 arrests (and, according to some of those under house arrest, approximately 400 employees who immediately fled the town). Thus about 800 new employees were needed at Agriprocessors to bring them back to pre-raid staffing levels. Assuming all 800 will be renters, this gives you an idea of the captive rental market in this small town where, it seems, all the cards are stacked on the sides of the landlords.

    In the neighboring town of Decorah, I have never had to pay for utilities like water and sewerage. They were included in my rent, no doubt, and my rent here over the last 3 years has been $330 and $450 a month for better accomodations than I see people in Postville are getting.

    It seems evident that by far the largest user of sewerage treatment facilities in Postville *has* to be Agriprocessors. While there seem to be two sewerage treatment plants (one a multi-million dollar facility on the Agriprocessors site and another smaller one near the trailer park on the east end of town), a question I have is how much of the cost of the plants sewerage treatment and water costs are being passed along to those employees paying rents plus sewerage and water bills. Are the sewerage and water costs being expended to run the treatment facilities on the Agriprocessors site totally separate from those in the town, or are their employees being pinged to pay some of these costs for Agriprocessors?

  • craigede

    What Postville needs more than a housing code is a renters' rights organization that can provide information about how the various landlords treat their tenants so that renters can make informed decisions about who to rent from.

    I'd love to think that this was a move in the right direction by GAL to do the right thing. Maybe it is, but another factor might be that deducting money for rent from checks issued through Jacobsen Staffing makes it very easy to track who is being charged what and who is being paid the rents. Maybe it is seen as better if there is less transparency in thise transactions and that is the reason for the change.

    I spoke with a now-homeless woman brought up from Kentucky by a guy named Henry to work for Agriprocessors. She had been “sharing” a small ranch house in Postville with eight (8) others. She finally left, prefering to live on the street, after one of her roomates persisted in “relieving himself” in front of her in their shared bedroom. (The context implyed a sexual relief and not urination.)

    Her check stub, which she showed me, listed $100 a week being deducted for housing. Given that rate for her and her roommates, this small ranch house was bringing in $3600/month to this landlord, an amazing amount for housing in small town Iowa. I sincerely hope all this money is being tracked by the IRS and will be suitably taxed. Taking the rent payments off the check stubs will make tracking money paid to
    landlords harder to track, and it seems likely this is one motivation for doing so.

    St. Bridget's church is still paying a hefty amout for the rents of people under house arrest. I hope they see fit to supply this rental payment information to the IRS as well.

    Postville has a population of 2200. The May 12 raid resulted in 389 arrests (and, according to some of those under house arrest, approximately 400 employees who immediately fled the town). Thus about 800 new employees were needed at Agriprocessors to bring them back to pre-raid staffing levels. Assuming all 800 will be renters, this gives you an idea of the captive rental market in this small town where, it seems, all the cards are stacked on the sides of the landlords.

    In the neighboring town of Decorah, I have never had to pay for utilities like water and sewerage. They were included in my rent, no doubt, and my rent here over the last 3 years has been $330 and $450 a month for better accomodations than I see people in Postville are getting.

    It seems evident that by far the largest user of sewerage treatment facilities in Postville *has* to be Agriprocessors. While there seem to be two sewerage treatment plants (one a multi-million dollar facility on the Agriprocessors site and another smaller one near the trailer park on the east end of town), a question I have is how much of the cost of the plants sewerage treatment and water costs are being passed along to those employees paying rents plus sewerage and water bills. Are the sewerage and water costs being expended to run the treatment facilities on the Agriprocessors site totally separate from those in the town, or are their employees being pinged to pay some of these costs for Agriprocessors?

  • craigede

    What Postville needs more than a housing code is a renters' rights organization that can provide information about how the various landlords treat their tenants so that renters can make informed decisions about who to rent from.

    I'd love to think that this was a move in the right direction by GAL to do the right thing. Maybe it is, but another factor might be that deducting money for rent from checks issued through Jacobsen Staffing makes it very easy to track who is being charged what and who is being paid the rents. Maybe it is seen as better if there is less transparency in thise transactions and that is the reason for the change.

    I spoke with a now-homeless woman brought up from Kentucky by a guy named Henry to work for Agriprocessors. She had been “sharing” a small ranch house in Postville with eight (8) others. She finally left, prefering to live on the street, after one of her roomates persisted in “relieving himself” in front of her in their shared bedroom. (The context implyed a sexual relief and not urination.)

    Her check stub, which she showed me, listed $100 a week being deducted for housing. Given that rate for her and her roommates, this small ranch house was bringing in $3600/month to this landlord, an amazing amount for housing in small town Iowa. I sincerely hope all this money is being tracked by the IRS and will be suitably taxed. Taking the rent payments off the check stubs will make tracking money paid to
    landlords harder to track, and it seems likely this is one motivation for doing so.

    St. Bridget's church is still paying a hefty amout for the rents of people under house arrest. I hope they see fit to supply this rental payment information to the IRS as well.

    Postville has a population of 2200. The May 12 raid resulted in 389 arrests (and, according to some of those under house arrest, approximately 400 employees who immediately fled the town). Thus about 800 new employees were needed at Agriprocessors to bring them back to pre-raid staffing levels. Assuming all 800 will be renters, this gives you an idea of the captive rental market in this small town where, it seems, all the cards are stacked on the sides of the landlords.

    In the neighboring town of Decorah, I have never had to pay for utilities like water and sewerage. They were included in my rent, no doubt, and my rent here over the last 3 years has been $330 and $450 a month for better accomodations than I see people in Postville are getting.

    It seems evident that by far the largest user of sewerage treatment facilities in Postville *has* to be Agriprocessors. While there seem to be two sewerage treatment plants (one a multi-million dollar facility on the Agriprocessors site and another smaller one near the trailer park on the east end of town), a question I have is how much of the cost of the plants sewerage treatment and water costs are being passed along to those employees paying rents plus sewerage and water bills. Are the sewerage and water costs being expended to run the treatment facilities on the Agriprocessors site totally separate from those in the town, or are their employees being pinged to pay some of these costs for Agriprocessors?

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