Wednesday, September 10, 2008

First charges, alleging child-labor violations, levied against meatpacker caught in immigration raid

Iowa officials have filed child-labor charges against the owner and four executives of the Postville, Iowa, processing plant where almost 400 workers were arrested in May on suspicion of illegal immigration. Each was charged with 9,311 violations of child-labor laws. Two of the executives, human resource employees, were also charged with falsifying paperwork for people they allegedly knew were in the country illegally. These are the first charges faced for leaders of Agriprocessors. The charges involve 32 minors, seven of whom were under 16. They allegedly operated dangerous equipment and were exposed to dangerous chemicals. A company spokesman said the workers lied about their age and produced false paperwork.

Julia Preston of The New York Times reports, "The complaint also charges that under-age workers were not paid for all the overtime they worked and were forced to work before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m., a violation of child labor laws." Preston writes. "Many of the young workers are illegal immigrants who are seeking special visas, known as U-visas, to remain in the United States to cooperate with the investigation."

Over the past few months, many have questioned why only the workers have faced charges after the May raid. Tony Leys and Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register cite Delia Junach, a worker whose husband was arrested in the May raid: "She has nothing against plant managers personally. They gave her and her husband jobs that weren't available elsewhere, and she still appreciates it. But she said if Agriprocessors' workers had to face charges, so should the bosses. 'It's fair,' she said in Spanish." (Read more)

The Rural Blog's previous coverage of the Postville raid: Hundreds of immigrants arrested in raid on Iowa meatpacking plant; largest ever at a single site (May 14) Criminal prosecutions in largest-ever raid signal feds' tougher attitude toward illegal immigration (May 24) Raided meatpacker was repeatedly notified that workers were using bogus Social Security numbers (May 25) Feds arrest two Hispanic supervisors of Iowa plant that was scene of largest immigration raid yet (July 4) In wake of record raid, more information emerging about Iowa (July 28) Iowa governor blasts packer hit by nation's largest immigration raid; state alleges safety violations (Aug. 25)

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