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Weidhorn: It is the belief of the Union for Reform Judaism that upholding ethical values is incumbent on both government and employers.
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New York, September 15, 2008 - Following the leadership of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Conservative Movement, and in light of the recent news about the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, IA, the Union for Reform Judaism passed a resolution today regarding the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid and the company's treatment of workers (text here). Rabbi Marla Feldman, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, noted that the Union's Executive Committee had acted swiftly and with resolve, underscoring the Reform Movement's ongoing commitment to pursuing social justice.
The resolution expressed dismay at the excesses with which Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted the raid, the detainment of workers, and the limited due process with which the detainees' cases were adjudicated. The Union's resolution urged government authorities to employ due process and humane treatment of detainees and their families.
As to the treatment of employees, the Union for Reform Judaism resolved to "call upon all companies that produce kosher food products to conduct their business according to legal requirements and the highest Jewish ethical as well as ritual standards, respecting the rights of workers to fair pay, reasonable benefits, and safe working conditions." Citing the recent resolution of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Union's resolution explained some particular concerns regarding these events: "Those who produce kosher meat are engaged in sacred work and therefore are expected to adhere to the highest standards and values of Jewish tradition." The Union's resolution also applauds the Conservative movement's plan to institute a new certification through its Hekhsher Tzedek Commission:
This certification will let consumers know that the kosher food they purchase has not only met traditional ritual requirements, but also has been made by companies that utilize ethical business practices regarding treatment of workers, health and safety, animal welfare and environmental impact. This and similar efforts will help Jewish consumers put their values on their dinner plates.
Over the years the Union for Reform Judaism has spoken out on behalf of workers' rights, campaigning against sweatshops and child labor and in support of a living wage. The treatment of immigrant workers by the government as well as the charges of abusive labor practices at Agriprocessors are particularly distressing and in contrast to Jewish ethics. Peter Weidhorn, Chairman of the Union's Board of Trustees, in summing up the resolution's goals, said: "It is the belief of the Union for Reform Judaism that upholding ethical values is incumbent on both government and employers."