Earlier this month, federal authorities raided the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the nation, arresting nearly 400 illegal aliens working at the Agriprocessors plant, including some juveniles. Allegations about abuse and failure to compensate workers have since been raised.
Agriprocessors, which provides meat for many kosher brands sold across the country, has no one but itself to blame. Under fire in the past for allegedly abusing the animals it processes, the company is now accused of being equally indifferent to the people it hires.
We trust that the governmental authorities charged with getting to the bottom of this mess will do so. But until they do, it is important for everyone to remember a few salient facts.
First, though Agriprocessors is a large supplier of kosher meat, it is still just one of many such companies, the vast majority of whom have clean records. It is a shame that any company associated with the practice of Jewish law should come under suspicion of illegal or unethical behavior, but the alleged crimes of Postville should not be imputed to anyone but those who committed them. The fault here is not with kashrut or the kosher-meat industry, but with some individuals who may have used their religious seal of approval as a cover for behavior that was anything but godly.
That said, the arrests at Agriprocessors should put all companies that rely on illegal aliens on notice that the exploitation of undocumented workers is a crime that deserves serious punishment. Consumers of all products, including those that carry the label "kosher," must demand that their purchases not be the result of abusive conditions.
The debacle at Postville should be seen as a clarion call to all employers that such behavior is treif — in every sense of the word.