The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 71/No. 5           February 5, 2007  
Gov’t targets meat packers
with criminal indictments
(front page)
DES MOINES, Iowa—U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzales announced January 16 that federal authorities have issued criminal indictments against 148 of the nearly 1,300 workers arrested in the December 12 immigration raids at Swift meatpacking plants in six states.

The workers are accused of acquiring other peoples’ Social Security numbers and personal information with the purpose of gaining employment at Swift and Co. Of those indicted, 108 workers have been accused of “aggravated identity theft,” which carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of two years.

In addition state indictments are being issued in Utah and Colorado.

Five weeks after the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) police, scores of workers remain in jail. Of the 262 arrested at the Swift plant in Greeley, Colorado, 74 are still locked up, most in an immigration jail in El Paso, Texas. It took the federal government until January 19 for all the workers to gain access to an attorney and have a bond hearing.

“This is something ICE should have done within 48 hours. It took five weeks,” said Dave Minshall, a spokesperson for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7. The fact they did it at all was because the union sued ICE for violating workers’ right to due process, he said. After the government accounted for all those arrested in Greeley, U.S. district judge John Kane terminated the lawsuit.

Lawyers for the arrested workers have filed court documents protesting the fact that ICE will not release the detainees even if they have had a hearing, according to attorney Jim Salvator.

Judge Kane ordered ICE not to deport those who had signed papers agreeing to leave the country and giving up legal rights, and to withdraw those orders if the detainees want. Seventy-five of the 262 workers arrested at the Swift plant in Greeley were deported to Mexico the night of the raid.


OSCEOLA, Iowa—At Osceola Meats, a nonunion plant owned by Hormel in south-central Iowa, the Militant interviewed one of the meat packers there, who asked that his name not be published. He said that starting the previous week, about “40 people were fired for having bad Social Security numbers.”

When these workers reported to their jobs, “the card they use to enter the plant didn’t work,” he said. “The guards told them they had to go straight to the office. The company just told them they were fired.”

“In previous weeks, production at the plant had been slow and workers were often sent home early. But after the mass firings, they started working the plant six days a week,” he said.

The worker told the Militant about renewed interest among coworkers in joining the UFCW. He said Osceola Foods called a company meeting with employees in December to discourage them from joining the union. “The manager told us, ‘Why do you want to pay someone else to come talk to me, when you can just come talk to me directly? All the union wants is your money.’”

He said some were convinced by the bosses’ arguments, but many others are for the union. The biggest complaint “is the mistreatment. Supervisors yell at people, they make threats, and sometimes when you go into the office they cuss people out.” He noted that in early January the company raised wages about 50 cents an hour, and that he saw this as a ploy to undercut support for the union.
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