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Charges Against Agriprocessors’ Owners Brings Needed Accountability, Justice

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America’s Voice Commends State Action, Calls Upon Feds to Step up Monitoring Against ‘Bad Actor’ Employers

The news that Iowa’s Attorney General has brought charges against the owners and senior managers at the notorious Agriprocessors meatpacking plant is an important victory for accountability and justice. In the aftermath of the May 2008 raid on the meatpacking plant in Postville, IA, labor organizations, immigration reform advocates, and Congressional leaders expressed concern that the fast-track deportation of immigrant witnesses ensnared in the raid would make it impossible for the government to bring appropriate charges against Agriprocessors, an egregious violator of a series of workplace safety, labor, health, physical, and food safety laws.

Particular concern centered on the possibility that an ongoing child labor investigation was disrupted by the immigration raid. However, yesterday, the Iowa Attorney General charged Agriprocessors’ owners and senior managers with over 9,000 counts of child labor violations involving 32 underage workers. Some of the child laborers, including those under the age of 16, worked in particularly dangerous areas of the meatpacking plant and had exposure to meat grinders, circular saws, and power shears.

Below is a statement from Lynn Tramonte, Policy Director of America’s Voice:

“The news of these charges is a victory for those who believe that the law should protect all workers–both immgrant and native born–who are exploited by bad employers. 

“Agriprocessors is the poster child for what is wrong with our current immigration system.  In this case, vulnerable undocumented workers were subjected to horrific abuses because their employer thought they had no voice, and yesterday’s charges proved that these workers do. 

“While I commend the Iowa Attorney General for recognizing that unscrupulous employers must be held accountable for exploiting workers, I hope that the federal government will recognize its own responsibilities to protect all workers.  However, the Bush Administration’s recent emphasis on immigration crackdowns rather than labor law enforcement has demonstrated that they prioritize immigration status above all else – including truly heinous child labor violations.

“Ultimately, the real solution to this problem is to combine robust labor law enforcement with common sense immigration reform.  When we bring undocumented workers out of the shadows to get documented and get on a path to legal residence, we break the hold abusive employers have on them, and all workers and law-abiding employers win.”