Last month, we noted
the news that the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, IA was
having trouble finding new hires after an Immigration & Customs
Enforcement raid swept up 389 of its workers. At the time, we suggested that paying a living wage might do the ...
Last month, we noted the news that the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, IA was having trouble finding new hires after an Immigration & Customs Enforcement raid swept up 389 of its workers. At the time, we suggested that paying a living wage might do the trick.
Apparently, management had a different plan in mind.
The Agriprocessors owners instead hired a temp agency, Jacobson Staffing Co., and landlord, GAL Investments, Inc., who together set up a wage-garnishing scheme that preyed on vulnerable workers who didn't have money for security deposits or first month's rent. For $100 a week, Agriprocessors employees were rented space in scores of cramped, substandard homes and wound up with very small paychecks. From the Iowa Independent report:
[S]ome 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.
Jacobson and GAL maintain that they only meant to help workers get established upon moving to Postville. Following recent media scrutiny, however, managers from both companies have confirmed that they're pulling the plug on the agreement today. Another temp agency in town, with a similar arrangement, says it has no plans to follow suit.
A newly hired Agriprocessors CEO who has pledged to improve conditions for thousands of workers at the plant has been mum about the recruitment strategy, which is yet another black eye for Agriprosessors. Earlier this month the company was slapped with a criminal complaint based on 9,000 child labor law violations.