Postville plant’s owner outlines plans for kosher production

Hershey Friedman, whose company bought the former Agriprocessors
facility in Postville, Iowa, says he will use E-Verify, pay
higher-than-minimum wages but seek to provide “affordable” kosher meat
to Jewish consumers, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Friedman, who created a company called Agri Star Meat and Poultry LLC to buy the plant, gave a rare interview to the AP about his plans.

He will use E-Verify to help avoid the problems that led to a raid
by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Agriprocessors in
May 2008, he said. Nearly 400 undocumented workers were arrested and
hundreds more employees fled the jurisdiction, and Agriprocessors was
pushed into bankruptcy in November 2008.

New recruits

Friedman said he also will recruit new employees first from
Postville and the surrounding area. “You have to do your best to get
the local community first,” he is quoted as saying. He indicated he
will pay $1 or more per hour than minimum wage for the lowest-paid
entry-level jobs.

The state’s minimum wage is $6.35 per hour for the first 90 days of employment, and $7.25 an hour after that.

Friedman indicated that he believes Agriprocessors pushed
production at the plant beyond its physical capacity. He said he will
invest in capital improvements, and eventually employ 750 to 800
people, the AP reported. There now are about 385 people working there, he said.

He praised the former owners, the Rubashkin family, for working to
make kosher meat available throughout the United States for Jewish
consumers and others interested in buying kosher. He told the AP that Agri Star has the same goal.

Trial begins

Meanwhile, in nearby Sioux Falls, S.D., the trial of former top
manager Sholom Rubashkin began on Tuesday. In this trial he faces 91
charges, including bank fraud. Another trial to decide 72 other
charges, including violation of child labor laws and worker abuse, will
be held later.

This first trial is expected to last about six to eight weeks.