Postville’s Somalis – Two Views

I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m Postville-obsessed, but I found the differences between these two takes on Somalis now moving into town fascinating.

One is from the Des Moines Register and the other is from the Associated Press.

The big difference is that The Register quotes immigrants who have worked at Agriprocessors and the AP talks to Somalis preparing to start work. 

Before starting work, from the AP piece:

Aydurus Farah, a 21-year-old who immigrated from Somalia in 2004, set out for work in meatpacking plants to make money for his family back home in Somalia.

He planned to begin work at Agriprocessors this week, drawn from Minneapolis to Postville by the promised wages.

“They said over there they pay like 13 dollars an hour, very good money,” Farah said as he stood outside Sabor Latino, a popular Mexican restaurant.

He said he also appreciates the city’s small-town charms.

“I did not like Minneapolis – too many people, too many cars,” he said. “I like small towns. I am small town guy, so this is nice place. Maybe I can raise family here.”

 After, from The Register piece:

Hassan Yusuf, 22, said he and others were promised a bonus and a free month’s rent if they came to work at the plant. “We never got it,” he said. “They’re just trying to grab us here.”

Yusuf showed a paycheck stub from Jacobson Cos., a Des Moines-based firm that has been hiring workers to fill jobs at Agriprocessors. The check was for his first week’s work, with deductions for rent and a loan he said he never took out. After the deductions, Yusuf netted $8.61.

The paperwork showed that he was supposed to make $10 an hour, and that he’d been paid for 34.5 hours. He said he actually worked 48 hours.

Yusuf showed another paycheck stub, from his cousin, who netted nothing for a week’s work.

Yusuf said he quit the job this weekend and wanted the recruiting company to pay for a bus ticket back to Texas, where he last lived.

So is it small town charm or greed? In Postville, you get both.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Postville’s Somalis – Two Views

  1. Seriously. What is it with that place? Does the whole darn place need to be shut down for a while? It sounds like they are more in the business of professionally breaking as many laws as possible instead of making kosher meat.

    Here we have yet another group of immigrants, apparently most of which are legal, who are being mistreated in some way shape or form. How did they get here so fast? Does EVERY regular American citizen in Postville already have a job?

    Anyway, it sounds to me like this place does not currently have what it takes to operate as a legal US business. I believe the operation needs to be shut down completely until they can do two things:

    1) Hire and put in place an independent group of people (a company or whatever that can be audited/certified etc) to verify the legality of all workers, current and future.

    2) Hire and put into place an independent group of people to oversee day to day worker operations and working conditions.

  2. Republican

    I think part of the problem here is the multifaceted payroll office of the business. I’ve read so far that some employees were offered loans. Some are paying their rent out of their paycheck deductions? Some are paying Agriprocessors to cash the checks on the spot?

    The solution, of course, is for the business payroll department and the immigrants to limit the payroll to the normal payroll and deductions. If you want your check cashed, then go to your bank. If you want your rent paid, then write your landlord a check. If you need a short term loan, then once again go to the bank.

    If the bank won’t offer check cashing, a checking account, or small short-term loans, then we really need to explore why that is. It could be indicative of someone here illegally. Keep the payroll functions to payroll and things can be evaluated cleanly.

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