Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the largest immigration raid in US history at AgriProcessors, a kosher meat packing plant. Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and Jewish Community Action participated in an Interfaith Walk for Justice, to remember those arrested, reconcile with those who contributed to the injustices, and advocate for immigration reform. In addition, Jews from across the country have been amping up efforts to support immigration reform.
This experience coupled with the raid made it extremely clear what role the Jewish community could play working as allies with the workers and the faith community in Postville. For Jewish Community Action and members of the Twin Cities’ Jewish community, our resolve to support the community of Postville was stronger than ever while our determination to work for immigration reform has never wavered since 2008.
Alan van Capelle, CEO of Bend the Arc wrote in the JWeekly, a San Francisco publication about the basic protections for workers that should be respected no matter what someone's immigration status is:
As Congress hammers out the details of a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented people, immigrant workers must be protected. And we don’t need new labor laws to accomplish this. Simply including in the legislation a mandate that existing wage, safety and nondiscrimination laws must be enforced, regardless of a workers’ immigration status, will send a strong message to employers and honor the Jewish teaching that workers must be treated fairly. Most important, it will encourage undocumented workers who gain new hope under a new law to come out of the shadows, form or join unions, and define and fight for their own interests.
After Postville, Jewish groups and kosher consumers engaged in awareness and advocacy campaigns. They raised funds to help workers’ families caught up in these raids and spurred enforcement of worker rights within the kosher food industry. The Conservative movement created a new Magen Tzedek certification, indicating that food products have been prepared in keeping with Jewish ethics, including workers’ rights.
Two years before the raid, the Conservative Judaism movement organized the first response to Postville, and in 2007 developed an independent ethics audit system for the kosher food industry known as the Magen Tzedek Shield of Justice. This system awards certification to companies meeting exemplary behavior in five areas including workers’ rights. Jewish consumers and kosher food companies must now embrace Magen Tzedek certification to ensure immigrant workers are treated with dignity as they pursue a righteous path to citizenship.