You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger…You must pay him his wages on the same day…for he is needy and sets his life on it; else he will cry to God against you and you will incur guilt. (Deut. 24:14-15)
Keeping the salary of a worker is like taking his/her life, and transgresses five negative commandments and one positive command. Shulhan Arukh (Hoshen Mishpat 339:2)
Whereas reports in the media have raised questions regarding the conditions of workers at some kosher slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants regarding training, safety, and prompt and just payment among other ethical issues;
Whereas a Joint Commission of the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism has investigated certain allegations at the AgriProcessors plant in Postville, Iowa, and has worked with representatives of the company as well as state and federal regulators to gather information and improve working conditions; and
Whereas the Conservative movement views the ethical treatment of all people involved in food production as an additional requirement in assuring that kosher food is truly ‘fit’ to be eaten.
Therefore be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly provide further volunteer and financial support for the work of the Joint Commission and commend Rabbi Morris Allen, Chair of the Joint Commission, and Richard Lederman, Director of the Committee on Public Policy and Social Action of the United Synagogue;
Be it further resolved that the Joint Commission, working in concert with the Kashrut Subcommittee of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, explore the creation of a “hekhsher-tzedek” which would certify foods prepared under acceptable worker conditions;
Be it further resolved that the Joint Commission explore establishment of a nationwide effort to assure acceptable labor practices and other working conditions for purveyors of kosher products by developing a model program with a limited number of kosher food producers; and
Be it further resolved that the Joint Commission develop educational materials and opportunities for Conservative Jews to become actively involved in this process.