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Iowa Meatpacker Is Fined Nearly $10 Million

October 30, 2008

Meatpacker Is Fined Nearly $10 Million

State labor authorities levied nearly $10 million in fines Wednesday for wage violations at an Iowa meatpacking plant where nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers were arrested in a raid in May.

The fines against Agriprocessors Inc., one of the country’s largest kosher meatpackers, were the largest wage violations penalties ever levied in Iowa, state officials said.

About $9.6 million of the fines were for illegal paycheck deductions the company made for protective jackets and other uniforms that packinghouse workers were required to wear. Iowa inspectors found 96,436 deductions for uniforms from the paychecks of 2,001 workers, and brought fines of $100 per incident.

The workers’ wages had been reduced by $192,597, Iowa officials said.

“You cannot legally deduct for clothing required by the company,” said Kerry Koonce, a spokeswoman for Iowa Workforce Development, the state’s labor department.

IA: Yes, National Popular Vote

We urge Iowa and other states to sign onto the plan so that by the next presidential election, every vote will be counted, and every state will matter in what we hope will be a truly nationwide campaign.

Immigration Raids vs. Enforcing Labor Rights - Iowa seeks alternatives to broken families and communities

The federal government is fixated on raiding workplaces in search of immigrant workers, but they have practically abandoned punishing irresponsible employers violating wage, workplace safety and child labor laws.  Demonstrating a remarkable commitment to punishing the victims, they've left it up to states to take action against the more pervasive problem of sweatshop labor conditions.

2008 Session Roundups: Iowa

In a solid session of achievement, the Iowa legislature made significant progress on expanding health care coverage, expanding public school and pre-K funding, advancing clean energy proposals, protecting veterans and students, taking on foreclosure abuses, expanding workers' rights, and improving the integrity of state ballots.  However, the session was marked by a few significant setbacks, including the governor's veto of a major labor rights bill.

Families USA's State Reports Document Bush's Assault on State Economies and the Consequences of Being Uninsured

Absent a national health care policy, states have found ways to expand the reach of Medicaid by covering more low-income, senior and disabled people and expanding the list of covered services.  Because of state action, 58 million Americans now have health coverage they would not otherwise possess.  To push back on the states, the Bush Administration put forward several new Medicaid regulations last year that, if implemented, will shift the burden and costs to states.  This will result in reduced benefits for millions of Americans unless already cash-strapped states find some way to pick up the slack - to the tune of $50 billion over five years.

Voter Registration: Steps States Can Take to Help Voters Register and Keep Them Registered

Maintaining accurate voter rolls and ensuring that all eligible voters who register to vote actually make it onto voting rolls are two of the most important functions of election administration.  If an eligible voter cannot vote because his name doesn't appear on the voter roll used in an election, the problem will not be addressed by the federal guarantee of a provisional ballot.  Such a ballot cannot register a person to vote, it can only preserve a ballot in the case the voter rolls at the precinct are mistaken or the

Don't create scapegoats: Enforce wage laws for allӬ

As families in Iowa struggle to make ends meet, they are justified in feeling threatened when they see what were once good jobs turned into low-wage, sweatshop labor. 

In industries across the country, workers are not receiving the wages owed them under minimum-wage and overtime laws. Earlier this decade, a U.S. Department of Labor report found that 60 percent of U.S. nursing homes routinely violated overtime, minimum-wage or child-labor laws. Other studies have found similar levels of violations in the garment and restaurant industries. 

In Iowa, the minimum-wage and overtime laws have some of the weakest enforcement provisions of any state in the country. Penalties usually amount to no more than telling employers to pay what they originally owed their workers. Because legal action is so expensive and so likely to produce meager returns, few employees can afford to pursue claims. Because civil fines are so low, the state doesn't collect enough for strong, ongoing enforcement. 

Focus on Prescription Drug Reform

$287 billion -- that is how much the U.S. spent on pharmaceuticals in 2007, representing a significant driver of health care costs.  While spending on hospital and physician care surpass spending on prescriptions, drugs still account for 14% of all health care expenditures. Combine this with polls that show 70% of Americans believe the drug industry puts profits ahead of people, and it's no wonder that in 2008, at least 540 bills and resolutions are being considered by states across the country to reduce prescription drug prices, ensure the quality of medications covered by public and private health plans, and reduce the undue influence of pharmaceutical industry marketing - which itself tops out at $30 billion each year.