Working Conditions Not Kosher, and Neither is Food

Nomi at I Dreamed I saw Grace P. Last Night has a link to a fascinating op-ed from Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld concerning an immigration raid at a kosher meatpacking plant. The raid uncovered horrific working conditions. The Rabbi cites a precedent for declaring food non-kosher because of the mistreatment of the workers who prepare it. That’s a radical concept. The raid at Agriprocessors Inc. also points to the need for a better immigration policy, because what we have now isn’t working.

Fogarty Gets National Leader Endorsements

From the Projo:

Reed, Whitehouse, Langevin endorse Fogarty

CRANSTON Democratic mayoral candidate Cynthia M. Fogarty has been endorsed by U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman James R. Langevin.

Reed, in a news release issued yesterday by Fogarty’s campaign, said: “Cindy has a strong reputation for working to create a better future for Cranston. She has been vocal on issues of finance, education and health care, and knows how to listen and respond to the needs of the community.”

Whitehouse called Fogarty “a smart, tough, experienced leader who will put local government to work for Cranston families. I’m confident that she will work hard to make one of Rhode Island’s largest cities a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Langevin, whose 2nd Representative District includes Cranston, said, “Cindy has a great track record as an advocate for the taxpayers and residents of the city of Cranston. As a member of the City Council, Cindy demonstrated strong skills as a communicator and a fierce determination to implement real change.”

Creative Contract-Settling for Lincoln Schools

The Providence Journal reports on Lincoln’s ability to come up with a 3-year contract for their schools that satisfies both the teachers and the taxpayers of the city. Here is a link to the article, and to a picture of the main community leaders who negotiated the contract. Notice anything about them all? That’s right. Maybe they all just happen to be highly skilled negotiators and leaders, but they also happen to be women.

Tomorrow is Voter Registration Deadline for Primaries

From Secretary of State Mollis:

Secretary of State Mollis is reminding Rhode Islanders they have until tomorrow, August 9, to register to vote in the September 9 primary.

Even though the deadline to register to vote falls on a Saturday, our office at 148 West River St. in Providence will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. In addition, we published a list of the locations in every city and town that will be open on Saturday so people can take advantage of the extra day to register to vote. The Cranston Board of Canvassers will be on the job at City Hall tomorrow from 1 to 4 p.m.

Completed voter registration forms that have not been turned into local board of canvassers by tomorrow must be postmarked by August 9 in order to make the deadline.

At the top of September’s ballot, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed will face Democratic challenger Christopher Young. There are primaries for city council and school committee in Cranston this year.

In order to register to vote, you must be at least 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen, a resident of Rhode Island and have a valid social security number or Rhode Island driver’s license. Registering to vote is free. For more info, contact me at 222-4293 or

Tyson Foods adds Muslim Holiday

Good thing they have a union at Tyson Foods. The mega-corporation that supplies chicken nuggets to the world has been hiring a large number of recent immigrants, many from Somalia. Most of those immigrants are Muslim. A major Muslim holiday is Eid al-Fitr, a family and religious celebration at the end of Ramadan. Tyson decided to make that day a paid holiday.

Fine. Corporations would usually rather spend huge bucks on human resources consultants than grant their employees a concession that would make them happy and boost morale. What boosts morale more than a day off?

I know that if any of my employers decided to give me Tet or Ephipany off, I’d say ‘God Bless America’ and sleep late. Monday is VJ day, after all, in Rhode Island only.

The problem is that Tyson was too stingy to add a holiday, so they took out Labor Day. I’m sure there was no disrespect intended to the union. Just one of those things.

Naturally it turned out to be gasoline to the right-wing blogosphere. It must have caused some dissonance for some of them when they had to defend Labor. Way to go, Tyson, this will really improve employee cooperation and good relations in the workplace. Take away a traditional American paid holiday in honor of Labor and add a religious holiday that is observed by the newest immigrant employees.

But Labor won this round–

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn., Aug 08, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ — The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and Tyson Foods have reached an agreement to increase the number of paid days off for workers in the current calendar year to include Labor Day and the Muslim observance Eid al-Fitr as paid holidays for workers in the Shelbyville poultry processing plant.. a worker who does not observe Eid al-Fitr will have the option of selecting another day as a paid Personal Day at their discretion.

“The union is pleased that the will of the workers in Shelbyville to observe and celebrate Eid al-Fitr will be guaranteed as a paid holiday,” said Stuart Appelbaum, national president of the RWDSU. “The RWDSU believes that this is an important sign of respect of deeply held religious beliefs. This Labor Day, the workers at Shelbyville have more reason that ever to be proud of being part of a union.”

They did good. It’s not only Muslims who have minority religious holidays. Many Christians do too. And as a Unitarian I might want to celebrate Ralph Waldo Emerson’s birthday, so I can sympathize.

I’m glad the conflict was defused, and if anyone at Tyson was trying to divide and conquer then they surely overplayed their hand.