Nov. 10, 2008
Law school conference examines legal issues of Postville raid
When federal agents raided the Agriprocessors plant in Postville last spring, they tied up a knot of legal issues that still hasn't been undone.
The most obvious issue is immigration law, since all of the 300-plus workers arrested at the plant were from other countries, many of them in the United States without proper documentation. But the issues at work go well beyond immigration law and include elements of labor law, workplace safety, child labor law and criminal trial procedure.
The University of Iowa College of Law will examine those and other Postville-related legal issues when it hosts a professional development program on Friday, Nov. 14. The program, "Postville Unpacked," runs from 1 to 5:15 p.m. in Boyd Law Building.
"The seminar will look at the intersections of the different legal fields that became a perfect storm in Postville, and we'll look at how those areas of the law played not only at Agriprocessors, but in a broader context," said John Allen, a clinical professor of law who will moderate the program.
In one of the largest workplace raids in U.S. history, federal agents rounded up more than 300 undocumented workers at the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in Postville on May 11. The workers were brought to a temporary camp and makeshift federal courthouse in Waterloo, where they were quickly convicted of various crimes, incarcerated, and deported to their home countries.
Since then, several plant managers have been arrested and charged with violating numerous labor, workplace safety, child labor, immigration, and other laws. Sholom Rubashkin, the Agriprocessor CEO and son of company owner Aaron Rubashkin, was also charged.
The raids have thrown the plant and the town of Postville into turmoil, and Agriprocessors recently filed for bankruptcy.
Allen said that since the raid happened in Iowa, and since many of the attorneys involved are from the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area, it made sense for the law school to host the symposium and examine the numerous legal questions it raises.
Speakers at the conference will look focus on labor issues at Agriprocessors, including the inability of the workers to form a union, and workplace safety and child labor issues; workers compensation; the prosecutions of those arrested; and how immigration law played into the raids.
"The discussions will raise some interesting questions about the belief that all of these workers were in the United States illegally, their criminal prosecutions, and the nature of the packing plant industry itself," said Allen.
Speakers include local attorneys Paul McAndrew, Rockne Cole and Daniel Vondra, as well as Angel Gonzalez Irizarry of the University of Iowa Labor Center.
The seminar costs $90 per person and provides CLE credit for attorneys. For more information visit http://www.law.uiowa.edu/documents/cle_2008_postville.pdf.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
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