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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Agriprocessors of Iowa; The story of kosher meats

In addition to being very sad, this Agriprocessors story is very interesting in many ways because it tells us the real state of life and living conditions for working people across this country..

Many workers sought employment at this plant after quitting their jobs working at Mystic Lake Casino because they found they were being treated better working in Agriprocessors’ hell hole than at the Mystic Lake Casino just outside of the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

SMSC Gaming Enterprise, an empire overseen by the Crook family--- one of the largest employers in Minnesota--- employs over 5,000 casino, hotel and restaurant employees in the smoke-filled Mystic Lake and Little Six Casino operations; all employed at poverty wages and without any rights under state, federal or tribal labor laws.

Workers are forced to sign a statement as the condition of their employment that they understand any union organizing activity is prohibited as a condition of their employment.

Stanley Crooks overseas the operation which is referred to as “a right-to-work-for-less without-any-rights colony.” Does it make any difference if workers are mistreated and abused in a meatpacking plant or in a casino operation?

Across the state of Minnesota more than 30,000 workers are employed under these same Draconian conditions.

Across the United States more than two-million workers are employed in some 400 of these smoke-filled casinos without any rights.

Ironically, the Iowa Labor Commissioner has intentionally ignored the plight of casino workers... just as these Iowa officials have turned their backs for years on those employed in the deplorable conditions at Agriprocessors. Everyone, including the Commissioner of Labor, was well aware of the atrocious working conditions and widespread violation of labor laws by Agriprocessors. Agriprocessors’ management, like casino operators, have bought off state public officials and bureaucrats for years while making campaign contributions to many Iowa politicians, and politicians all across this country… millions of dollars in bribes and campaign contributions, but they can’t pay employees real living wages and treat workers with respect and dignity.

Rubashkin Family Members Large Republican Campaign Contributors
The Federal Elections Commission records show Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin gave…
…$23,750 in federal campaign contributions from the year 2000 onward. That is Sholom Rubashkin only. The rest of his family also donated.

Most donations have gone to Republican candidates or to groups like the Republican Party of Iowa, which received $5,750 from Sholom M. Rubashkin from 2002 through 2004.

The Des Moines Register, which compiled this information, missed Sholom Rubashkin's brother-in-law (Aaron Rubashkin's son-in-law) Rabbi Milton Balkany, who stole $750,00 in federal grant money intended for disabled students and whose heavy donations to various Republican candidates bundled with similar donations from his family and close friends, earned him the moniker "The Brooklyn Bundler."

The Federal Elections Commission shows over $100,000 in campaign contributions from the Balkany family. Family members often "misspell" their first names which makes it appear to the FEC that several people, rather than one person, has contributed. (FEC part 1, part 2.)

The Balkany family's contributions went largely to Republicans.
Surprise; surprise… the casino managements operate the exact same way.

The very sad part of this story is that millions of workers across the United States are being treated like this, or worse… but, we just never hear about these injustices, and we need to ask: Why?

Only once the story is pushed out into the open do we begin to understand what is going on.

Think about this… all of this has been going on for years… just because you never heard of what was happening, the injustices were taking place all the same… all kinds of government bureaucrats and politicians were aware and did nothing but close their eyes as they held out their hands behind their backs accepting campaign contributions and outright bribes.

Perhaps more sad than anything besides the way working people have been abused by Agriprocessors’ management is the fact the leadership of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union has known for years this abuse has been taking place and refused to push the issue with state officials.

But, there is nothing strange about union leaders in this country turning their backs on unorganized workers… in Michigan, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions sat on their butts and kept their mouths closed as Michigan’s “labor governor,” Jenifer Granholm, went right ahead and signed one more “Compact” with a bunch of mobsters building the Gun Lake Casino just south of Grand Rapids; not a peep of protest from the so-called “union leaders” who the “Progressives for Obama” tell us will fight for us once he is elected… if this is truly the case, why have these “union leaders” refused to do anything in defense of working people, including their own members, for years?

The Grand Valley Labor News in west Michigan has been shamefully silent concerning this casino “Compact;” a deal, quite literally, made in hell with the sleazy Fertitta family and their Station Casino empire consisting of some of the most worthless scum-bags ever to evolve from the human race.

We can go right across the country and find the exact same kind of systematic and intentional abuse of working people in every state in the nation as what is taking place at Agriprocessors in Iowa or any of the 400 casinos spread out across the country which are part of the Indian Gaming Industry… we all know this; and, the industries aren’t limited to meat processors and casinos.

This is a shameful situation with people at work who create the wealth and I note that Barack Obama has kept his mouth shut about all of this, too. For anyone among the “Progressives for Obama,” from Tom Hayden to Carl Davidson to Katrina vanden Heuvel to Sam Webb, to ignore the facts of working class life as living, breathing human beings in this country are being forced to work under such terrible working conditions in the 21st century is part of the shame.

For some reason people will listen to the politicians recite facts and figures but never insist on knowing how working people are actually being treated at work. The politicians can wax poetic with facts and figures; but, you don’t see these politicians taking the media on tours of Agriprocessors Iowa operation.

The Chairman of the Red Lake Nation, Floyd Jourdain, told me that if working conditions are so bad in Red Lakes’ three casinos, people should go someplace else to work. This is the way these people think of working people. Where are these people going to go find jobs? At Agriprocessors in Iowa? I would bet Agriprocessors’ management tells workers there the same thing; employers have played this game with workers for years.


Kosher meats firm cited for child labor violations

Aug 5, 5:43 PM (ET)

By HENRY C. JACKSON and AMY LORENTZEN DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa labor officials said Tuesday that they had uncovered dozens of child labor violations at the nation's biggest supplier of kosher meat.

Officials from the state's Labor Commissioner's Office said their investigation, which spanned several months, uncovered 57 cases of child labor law violations at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, where nearly 400 workers were arrested this spring in the largest immigration enforcement operation in U.S. history.

The types of violations included minors working in prohibited occupations, exceeding allowable hours for youth to work, failure to obtain work permits, exposure to hazardous chemicals and working with prohibited tools.

"The investigation brings to light egregious violations of virtually every aspect of Iowa's child labor laws," Dave Neil, Iowa Labor Commissioner, said in a statement. "It is my recommendation that the attorney general's office prosecute these violations to the fullest extent of the law."

Juda Engelmayer, an Agriprocessors spokesman, declined to comment.

Federal immigration agents arrested 389 illegal-immigrant workers, mostly Guatemalans, in a May 12 raid at the Agriprocessors plant. Most of the arrested workers pleaded guilty within a week and are serving sentences in federal prisons outside Iowa before being deported.

Allegations of child labor violations were included in an initial affidavit and a search warrant that led to the raid at Agriprocessors, which also operates a plant near Gordon, Neb.

Kerry Koonce, a spokeswoman for Iowa Workforce Development, the agency that oversees the labor commission, said Iowa's child labor investigation into Agriprocessors began before the federal immigration raid and was independent of the raid.
Under Iowa law, it is illegal for children under the age of 18 to work in meatpacking plants.

Koonce said the number of violations is much larger than what is typically found in the state of Iowa.

"Typically, when we have child labor issues it's an issue of one or two individuals," she said. "From our point of view, with this investigation, it's a large-scale violation of the law."

Koonce said the full report was not being made public because it is a part of a criminal investigation but she confirmed that 57 children were involved.

Labor officials say the child labor violations would normally be turned over to the county attorney's office, but in this case will most likely be handed over the Iowa attorney general at the county's request.

The attorney general's office said it could not comment on what penalties are possible, but Koonce said any charges would be filed against the company and would generally include fines.

Several underage workers who said they were employed at the plant have spoken out since the raid about their experiences.

At a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last month in Postville, 17-year-old Noel Castillo Ordonez said he had worked long hours at the plant to support his family in Guatemala.

"I needed money for my family, because I could not help them," he said in Spanish.
At the same meeting, 17-year-old Gilda Yolanda Ordonez Lopez openly wept as she described being forced to work shifts as long as 12 hours with no overtime pay.

"They asked me how old I was, and I told them the truth," Lopez said.

Sister Mary McCauley of St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville has been working closely with the workers' families. She said she was "heartsick" over the stories of child labor violations that she heard after the raid.

"My first response is it doesn't surprise me because of all that I have heard," she said Tuesday. "Therefore, I am grateful that this was brought to the attention of the proper authority and my hope would be that some sanctions would be taken because I do think that these young children were not treated with respect and they should not have been there in the first place."

State labor officials say they are still investigating some wage violations at the plant.

We need to ask why the reporters from the Associated Press have never asked Barack Obama or John McCain about any of this.

Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541
E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

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