Waterloo, IA – A former underage worker cried Monday while testifying she was exposed to harsh chemicals at an Iowa slaughterhouse where she and other teens worked 12 hours a day, six days a week.
Yesenia Cordero Mendoza, now 18, was one of two former underage workers to testify against former manager Sholom Rubashkin, who faces 83 child labor violation charges stemming from a May 2008 raid at the plant in which 389 illegal immigrants, including 31 children, were detained. It’s the second trial for Rubashkin, who awaits sentencing in a separate federal financial fraud case that followed the raid at the former Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in Postville.
Mendoza began crying while testifying about the raid and the arrest of her boyfriend and other workers.
“I don’t want to remember it,” she told prosecutors through a translator.
She testified she was 15 when she used false documents to get hired at the slaughterhouse. It was common knowledge that the plant hired minors, so she forged documents that gave her age as older, and plant officials never asked for any other identification to verify it, she said. When government inspectors came to the plant, underage workers were sent home, she said.
Mendoza and Rony Ordonez Capir, who was 16 when hired, said the work involved harsh chemicals that burned their eyes, hands and throats.
Ordonez said he cut meat using hooks and knives and washed down conveyor belts with bleach and chlorine. Mendoza testified she measured the temperature of meat packaged with dry ice.
Ordonez, who is now 20, said he received no formal training and learned how to do his job by watching his co-workers. He said he was cut and injured several times on the job, and workers frequently slipped and fell because of animal fat and grease on the floor.
He said he began work at 4 a.m. and would work 12 hours or more. When asked when he didn’t complain about the ill-effects from the chemicals he used, he said, “If I told them, they wouldn’t listen.”
Each child labor charge is a simple misdemeanor that carries a potential penalty of $625 and 30 days in prison.
Rubashkin likely faces a longer sentence in the financial fraud case. Prosecutors asked a judge last month to sentence him to 25 years in prison. The judge has not yet made a decision.
During opening statements earlier Monday, attorneys argued over how much Rubashkin knew about the teens — at least one as young as 13 — working at the plant.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Laura Roan told jurors all the children were working with false documents.
“Everyone remained willfully blind to the age and legal status of the applicants,” she said. “That’s what the evidence will show.”
Rubashkin’s attorney, F. Montgomery Brown, called the plant’s hiring process flawed and dysfunctional but said prosecutors needed to prove more than bad management to get a conviction. He said they had to show Rubashkin wanted minors working at the plant.
“Negligence, bad management, that’s not going to cut it,” Brown said. “Not one witness will tell you Sholom Rubashkin wanted them there.”
He also said letters from Agriprocessors’ attorneys to federal immigration officials indicated the company knew the 2008 raid was coming and offered their full cooperation.
“If (Rubashkin) knew there were minors in the plant,” he said, “would not a reasonable person have told somebody to get them out of there before ICE got there?”
1) He paid them the same amount like adult for what good reason should he hire a child if a adult is working better and stronger?
2) It was common to hire children see other news article today that they were granted working permit if they testify against him why should a small stinker rotzer not lie for such good deal?
3) It was common then why did theu false paper?
4) Shalom was working in office and was not in HR he had better work then steering those folks in eye and figure out how old they are
The whole purpose of this trial is to show judge linda that he is not a first time offender that’s why the state of iowa is working so hard to collaborate with the fed’s.
Hope he goes out מאפלה לאורה very soon
Nit picking this poor guy. If you can bring proof that these kids were kidnaped and or forced to come work for agri , then I understand the goverments case. Here you have kids looking for jobs forging their papers , then SMR is in trouble!. USSR (USA , I’m not sure) 2010 !
donsnt the torah say g-d created all men in his image…how can a mn treat children like such garbage?
isnt it a chillul hasm the way he treated those workers!!!1
the bashing is hard to overlook, she cried because of the raid not because of the work.
how can you treat children worse then animals
I just can’t understand these children. They themselves wanted to work so they got false papers in order to work and they were hired. Now when they saw that their job is to work with chemicals they could’ve left the job. Who asked them to work there and then testify that it was harsh???
Zolen zei gein oif lazuzel!!!
no one forced the children to work they could have quit if they wanted to
1. Their Uncles and fathers who were working at Agri encouraged them to work at Agri.
2. In Many Central and Latin American countries it is customary for minors of 14 years old to work and help out with the family, in fact any of these Minors used work in the fields of Guatemala.
Why hit him when he is down? These DAs need noterioty at the expence of the most selfless hardworking family in the wourld. Shame on them!
If someone applies for a job and presents documents stating their age and their immigration status, the employer is not allowed to challenge those documents! To challenge documents, even if the employer suspects they are bogus, is a violation of the worker’s civil rights!
Baruch Hashem we will win this case then IY”H judge in federal case willl show tremendous leniency.. even more than asked for by defense
Bleach and chlorine are harsh chemicals? Huh…
These ppl were escorted and prompted by the prosecutors. Their evidence is so tainted that it would not be accepted by a chelm tribunal.
There is a story where they found one of the employees to be underaged and immediately fired her. There is a story of the federal mole that was sent home a few times as he came with out lehal papers. There is a very fine line between 16 and 18. specifically with girls when they wear makeup. I hope the jury can see through this.
In terms of harsh chemicals – it is notmal in factories to use bleach and acid. These kids make it sound luke they were using agent orange.
And last – where is the gov’ts responsibility for knowingly letting them stay in the country?
Mr Rubashkin looks very sickly. It is very obvious the ill treatment he is getting in Prison.
He said he began work at 4 a.m. and would work 12 hours or more. When asked when he didn’t complain about the ill-effects from the chemicals he used, he said, “If I told them, they wouldn’t listen.”
If I told them……but they didn’t so how dare them say they kept their mouth shut when they didn’t even give mr Rubashkin a chance. It’s more incriminating if you tell a jury i complained but they didn’t listen. to get up there and say well they wouldn’t have listend, really? how did this worker know if they never complained?
Rubashkin would pay for workers time of absence due to losing a parent which is not required by law and Rubashkin even paid for peoples funerals which no CEO in Amaerica has ever done. who is the monster here? i say the feds are disgustingly anti semitic with the way they are presenting their entire case.
Can Mr Ordonez bring medical records for those injuries! I am sure if people were so injured there must be logs at the local cinic. I hope thay tje aibeshter gives the defense a lof of chochma
And since when is bleach and ammonia contraband? Or are they trying to paint SMR as EVIL?
The connotation is that the worker had to touch the dry ice. How misleading. What is tje big deal of sticking meat with a thermometer? How else can you tell if the meat it cold enough to keep fresh?
SMR did not go to Central America looking for these workers. They came to the USA illegally (sin #1 ) They falsified documents to get hired(sin#2). So who should be prosecuted??? Certainly NOT Mr. Rubashkin – he did NOTHING wrong. The illegals should be prosecuted along with the judges etc.
here is my question: if indeed the defense is right that according to iowa law smr could not be convicted of any child labor violations unless it is proven beyond dought that smr knew that they were minors and willfuly employed them , shouldn’t it follow that the next step in the trial should be the burden of the goverment to provide evidence of knowledge and intent on the part of smr . since the defence is not denying that these minors worked at the plant , because in absence of such proof there is no case against smr at all . so why would the defense let the jury listen to 31 minors crying about the harsh conditions of their employment which is basicaly a victim impact statement when they have not yet established that they have a criminal here ? letting the jury listen to all these sob stories could influence the jury that smr is a monster even if he would not be a criminal in the eyes of the law .
פוי פוי פוי!!! Shame on you this is how you guys talk when you see a Brother in such big צרות I can’t believe this, if I wouldn’t see it I would definitely not believe it… פוי פוי פוי!!!
Look what these guys are doing to the mexicans all ages in arisona where is the big mercy what America has?? Thry had a regular cleaning job with chmicals what we all using and also our children below 18 can help us clean!! Just trying to play emotions
Ich farshtei nisht ein zach. Everyone including the president of the United States are now complaining that the new law in Arizona which forces illegal workers to show their documentation is racial profiling. Sholom M Rubashkins HR department made sure their employees had proper legal documents, yet are in trouble for having illegal and underage workers because they should have assumed they were either false or stolen documents! Is that not racial profiling! Mr. President how come I don’t hear you now defending Rubashkin? Where are all of you Liberals who are attacking the new law in Arizona? What type of double standard is going on? These Liberals are oxymoronic by their very nature and essence, and should be held accountable for it!
:”Mendoza began crying while testifying about the raid and the arrest of her boyfriend and other workers. “
So SMR is to blame for the raid too?! If they would have just left the guy alone, NOBODY (Banks, workers, Postville residents etc.) would be crying today!! What a twisted system!!! Sodom at it’s best!!!!!!!!!
In 2006 the Forward published a story charging Agri with employing child labor. If they knew, why didn’t Rubashkin?
Some of the comments on this site from ostensibly frum people, are astonishing and incredible. Why are the victims being blamed in this case? Alien minors who have no legal rights and no money, should not be exploited physically or psychologically by employers, whether the employers are gentile or yehudim. Does anybody honestly believe that the management of Agriprocessors did not know what was occurring? When I studied Physics, the teacher always taught us that “for every action, there is a reaction”. Now, those responsible for this sordid affair will ultimately pay the price. I have no sympathy for the ex-management of Agriprocessors. Let us stop screaming “anti-semitism”, and trying to use the excuse of “goyim picking on us”. According to Halacha, we have a greater obligation to obey the laws of the country that we live in. In this case, it doesn’t seem to have occurred.
This dude’s father and worked at the plant and “encouraged him to work” as well.
They should be also going to jail.
Just curios how much training did these (so called) miners get from the at. General to testify against smr??
Imagine if these underage would be testifying now that they “discriminated” by turning them away and not giving them a job when they legally applied for just wait the D A may try to paint a smr as a …. Abuser
And then show the world how right he is and how criminal smr and all the people he belongs to are. Hoyy
These kids were desperate for work, that’s why they gave in false papers. No one stopped them from quitting if they didn’t like the job. They probably were happy they could find jobs at all. They’re back stabbers. You’re good to someone and he stabs you in the back. If there never would have been a raid, these workers would have gladly stayed on, working there to earn as much money as they could. Now that the tables are turned they’re trying to get something out of this case because they lost their jobs. What a nerve, what low lives!
The entire article is slanted, as is the trial and this whole unfortunate affair. The (news) report states that Ms. Mendoza (The underage worker) started crying “While Testifying”. One gets the impression that she became emotional and cried when the memories of the kind of hard and dangerous work she performed at the plant came back to her. But when we read on further the report states that she cried “Because “Her Boyfriend Was Arrested”. What has that got to do with the purpose of her testimony and how is Sholom Rubashkin responsible for that?!
Wow, after reading all the comments on this blog all I can say is WOW, you guys would’ve made great trial lawyers, too bad most of you don’t go to law school, you could’ve all been the next Johnny Cochrans.
because one can take advantage does not mean he should.
The Torah and the gemarah speak out how to treat workers and not to take advantage of them.
Amazing how many people on this board sometimes go overboard with chumrahs bein adom lamokom, but seek out every heter or lame excuse when it comes to bein adom lechavara.
strange, where did you learn than?
It is truly telling that those who blame Rubashkin for hiring minors do not give any thought of blaming the parents who schlepped them on a dangerous, potentially life threatening journey to America all the while knowing they and their children are breaking the American law. And instead of packing them off to school, they are then sent to work. Where is your blame for the parents? Why do you blame Rubashkin?
To: Mr. Ich Shayim Zich Oych Nisht #1 - Again, you (kindly note how the word “you” is correctly spelled-it is not spelled “u”) have missed the point entirely. I don’t care if a banker has stolen $100,000,000 and receives a year’s probation. Such abhorrent conduct by goyim does not mitigate the facts of this case. Also, if people wish to lie on their federal income and state tax returns, and lie on their mortgage applications, they will have to answer for their illegal conduct. If anyone believes that not one member of the Management of Agriprocessors did not know that many of their employees were underage and undocumented, then they were daydreaming. Also, the trial in an Iowa state criminal court stands on its own merits, regardless of the fraud trial in the federal district court. The latter trial was not undertaken to bolster the federal case. Perhaps, you should take some courses in business law, and business ethics, in an effort to understand the points of both trials. Today, it appears that nobody wants to take responsibility for their actions any longer.
I cry after reading the harsh words used to express our opinions here on this post and most others.
Why is it necessary to use such words like ” hit your head against a wall” or “your such a shoteh” for example.
please express your ideas & opinions with more thought, not hurt.
I bet if we spent 10 more seconds before hitting the “Post Comment” button, we could reduce are hurtful words by at least 50%.
many people read these posts. they are not saying nice things about the language from one ” brother to another brother”. Criticize, yes. but hurtful speech, no. It really reduces the strength of your message, and causes pain to the heart of your community.
we can do better, don’t you think?
these minors were threatened to testify against him or else… in addition the prosecution knew about this way before the raid but did nothing to “protect” these minors cuz they have one goal only…to hurt rubashkin- ask any of these illegals- the raid destroyed their life- they were quite happy before.
I read what was going on and the testimony from witnesses made it perfectly clear that SMR was involved in some very bad things that were done to these poor kids.
Creepiest thing – one kid said he was charged for his own safety equipment and the cleaning of his smock. They took it out of his salary. When a chemical splashed on his mouth and his lip swelled up, they didn’t even get him help.
An ugly chapter in modern Jewish history.
Lots of people who did terrible things didn’t realize their life’s dreams. So what? If he was such a gentle soul, it wouldn’t matter if he went into teaching or shlichus or running a factory — the treatment of people would be humane. The fact that he ran such a horrible factory tells me I wouldn’t want him teaching my kids or teaching people in far-off places about Judaism. His kind of Judaism isn’t what should be spread around the world.
Especially ironic is the teaching thing. Teaching kids? When this is a man who thinks it’s okay if they lose fingers or handle dangerous chemicals and don’t need to be in school? Not my idea of a teacher.
RE. to 119. Maybe the Soifer should also check his ( rosh )
Well I’ve been very pro SMR until now. But to read stuff like him being an achzor to employees , it doesn’t matter to me big or small jew or non jew. This I cannot swallow.I still hope most of this stuff is lies. And other yiddishe employers should take notes. DON’T abuse your employees! Pay them decently , give them a pat on the back (it doesn’t cost money) if an employee sick or someone in their family , show some concern. Employers read this: If you ever get into trouble with the law , if you were nice to your workers, they will hopefully help you , if you are a dog ,they DEFINETLY will not, and chances are THEY WILL RAT YOU OUT! And to say that employees have a choice to work elsewhere is a nice saying but most workers need the money to put bread on the table. Employess: work honestly , its not that easy for your boss to make a buck!!
Please remember the issue in this case is if SMR had personal knowledge and approved of the underage workers. Further the circumstances described are shocking no doubt but was Agriprocessors that much different than any other slaughterhouse and packing plant?
The minors came to Agri for work they were not sought out. There does not seem to be any special obligation to examine ID or Birth Certificates to verify their veracity. Especially when some of these minors were 15,16,17 which is not all that distinguishable from an 18 yr. old.
Again the issue is did SMR agree to and aprooved the hiring of underage workers and nothing more.
And before heaping vitriol consider if the conditions at Agri were all that diffrent
Who is to say this prosecution is designed to vilify SMR more than anything else.
The govt is at fault. How is one to know if they have false papers? There is NO WAY to check!
SMR was every employee’s dream; in fact he was kind and generous with them which is why he had so many illegals there…yes, word of mouth…if it was really so horrendous do u honestly think it would become sooo popular? but…when these people are threatened to be punished or cooperate…they obviously chose against smr, and are now testifying against him to save themselves jail time. but if yu would have spoken to them a day before the raid, you’d have gotten a pleasnt, happy report. in fact, their lives have been wrecked from the raid.
Do you know what the term chilul hashem means? Look in the mirror and you shall see. Mr rubashkin has been accused. The evidence in both trials does not point to SMR knowingly breaking laws.
Unbelievable. People finding a way to bash the children who worked at the factory. If this was your children and the boss didn’t have a beard and yarmulke, you’d feel differently, wouldn’t you.
How easily you forget that your grandparents and great-grandparents were immigrants. How easily you forget that this country has laws to protect underage workers, even if they’re desperate enough to apply for a dangerous job. Rubashkin knew better, as did his people.
Oh, but if it puts meat on your table, what do you care?
How many of you people ask id from a cleaning lady that cleans your house for cash? or may be its better to give this job to an Americans and just let illegals starve to dead ?would that be more human? Now look at Iowa situation illegal workers who had fake ids where paying taxes and everybody where benefiting from it!!!!its definitely less crime then hiring cleaning lady for cash. Pour girl will cry and say anything you want while her boyfriend is a hostage by feds…………..