January 10, 2008
(Brooklyn, NY) — Workers at the Agriprocessors distribution center in Brooklyn won a major victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the company to recognize their vote for a union voice at work.
The court ruled in favor of the workers’ right to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) by reaffirming the long-standing principle that all workers, undocumented or not, have the right to choose a union and bargain collectively. The company refused to bargain after an overwhelming majority of its distribution center workers voted to join the union in September 2005.
Agriprocessors argued that, despite having hired them, many of these employees were undocumented and therefore, according to Agriprocessors, they could not vote or belong to a union. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled against Agriprocessors, maintaining that every employee, regardless of his or her immigration status, have a collective bargaining vote. Nearly three years later, Agriprocessors lost its appeal in federal court.
Despite the positive ruling, this is just another example of our broken immigration system, specifically the abject failure of the employment verification process. Immigration law should complement, not undercut, the enforcement of labor and employment laws. Otherwise, the wages, benefits, working conditions, and labor rights of all workers will deteriorate.
“U.S. labor law protects all workers and the UFCW will not allow any company to operate outside of the law and take advantage of its employees,” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Division. “The Court of Appeals has sent a clear message to Agriprocessors and other employers who think they can skirt the law and deny workers a voice to make their workplace safer and their jobs better.”
Agriprocessors is one of the nation’s largest kosher meat producers. The company produces products under the following brand names: Aaron’s Best, Aaron’s Choice, European Glatt, Iowa Best Beef, Nevel, Shor Harbor , Rubashkin’s, Supreme Kosher, and David’s.