Former slaughterhouse supervisor says boss ordered underage workers hidden during inspections

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Iowa slaughterhouse supervisor hid child workers

WATERLOO, Iowa — A former supervisor at a kosher slaughterhouse raided by federal agents testified Monday that when child labor inspectors toured the facility, he took two workers he thought were underage and hid them in the basement.

Former supervisor Brian Griffith testified Monday against former plant manager Sholom Rubashkin, who is being tried on 83 counts of child labor violations. The charges followed a May 2008 raid at the former Agriprocessors plant in Postville where 389 illegal immigrants, including children, were detained.

Griffith said his boss told him to hide underage workers.

One of the workers he hid, Mario Perez Marroquin, testified earlier Monday that he worked at the plant for two summers while he was in high school and then worked there full-time until the immigration raid.

On cross-examination, he said federal agents didn’t initially believe him when he said he was a minor, but he was released to his family after he showed identification proving his age.

Another child laborer told jurors he injured his right hand when it got caught in a conveyor belt on the plant’s chicken line. Gerardo Solovi Perez said after workers bandaged his finger and put a glove on the hand, supervisors told him to get back to work.

Perez, who was 17 when federal agents raided the plant, told jurors he had to get a false Guatemalan birth certificate and fake resident alien card to land a job at the plant. Those documents said he was born in 1986, instead of 1991, he said.

Prosecutors said they expected to call their last witnesses Tuesday.

Rubashkin was scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in federal court on 86 counts of financial fraud, but U.S. District Court Judge Linda Reade on Monday delayed sentencing in the federal case until June 22 because Rubashkin’s state trial is expected to last the rest of the week.

Prosecutors have asked for a 25-year sentence in the federal case. Defense attorneys wants a six-year sentence.

If convicted in state court, Rubashkin faces 30 days in jail for each child labor violation.

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