Nathaniel Popper of the Forward writes that the Conservative rabbis report on Rubashkin’s (AgriProcessors’) worker abuses has been released:
The Conservative movement put together a commission to investigate the Forward’s allegations and made three trips to the plant. The report that came out of these visits said that the commission came across a number of concerns in speaking with workers and management.
The list of problems included: “Inadequate or non-existent worker safety training”; “concern about unsafe chemical use,” and “unclean and unsafe lunchroom conditions.”
Several members of the Conservative movement’s commission also visited the Empire Kosher Poulty plant in Pennsylvania, where they found “working conditions, safety conditions and general worker welfare and community relations not to be issues of concern.”
Other issues, like pay shorting, can only be confirmed by a criminal investigation. This may be happening as part of a wider Justice Department investigation into price fixing in the kosher meat industry. Sources claim Rubashkin is a target of that investigation.
The Conservative rabbis have also announced a “tsedek hekhsher,” or a justice certification, that would ensure kosher food producers “have met a set of standards that determine the social responsibility of kosher food producers, particularly in the area of workers rights.”
The head of the Conservative movement commission, Rabbi Morris Allen, said that any certification system would be a supplement — not a replacement — for current kosher supervision. Allen said the additional level of scrutiny is necessary for the religious bona-fides of the industry.
“We have reached a point where it not sufficient to teach and promote the whys of keeping kosher,” Allen said. “It is necessary to ensure we talk about how our kosher food is produced.”
Here is what the OU’s Rabbi Menachem Genack says about this:
“There are lots of social issues that are really important that could be subsumed under some sort of super certification,” Genack said. “But if we just move away from strict concerns about kashruth — if we talk about what they pay workers — these kinds of standards can be less than 100% clear.”
After rolling on the floor convulsed in laughter, my only response to this innane statement by Rabbi Genack is to note that ripping the throats out of live animals with a meat hook – a process Rabbi Genack defended as 100% kosher – is far from 100% clearly kosher, yet the OU sanctioned it. Why? Money, the same reason they will not deal with Rubashkin’s abuses or the abuses on the farming side of the meat industry. Making sure employees of kosher plants and the animals they slaughter are both (not to equate the two) treated humanely will raise the cost of kosher meat, which will drop sales, which will reduce the value of the OU’s supervision, which will reduce the amount of money the OU gets to provide that supervision. Rabbi Genack himself says:
Genack also said that a major priority for the Orthodox Union was to make kosher food more widely available. “For us to set up a new amorphous standard in certain plants,” Genack said, “parts of the kosher industry are very fragile and could be adversely affected by this.”
In other words, your Orthodox rabbis are willing to ignore tzaar ba’alei hayyim law and all the halakhot surrounding the treatment of employees so you can buy (relatively) cheap kosher beef.
Orthodox Jews, understand this well. These are your rabbis. Run away from them.