Update: Immigration audit prompts strike at Ruprecht

by Erica Shaffer
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Ruprecht Company
Meatpackers staged a walkout at Ruprecht Company's processing plant.

MUNDELEIN, Ill. – A Department of Homeland Security immigration audit at Ruprecht Company, Chicago’s oldest operating beef processor, recently sparked a walk-out organized by members of a hospitality union. Nearly 100 employees at the company’s meat processing plant participated in the walk out. MEAT+POULTRY reached out to Ruprecht, but the company has not commented.

“The walk out lasted for a few hours only on Friday, though the campaign is continuing and there will be further actions,” said Joe Shansky of Unite Here.

Members of Unite Here Local 1 filed charges of unfair labor practices over Ruprecht’s “failure to provide information regarding the potential audit, and the use of temporary workers,” the union said in a statement. The union said a majority of the workers at the processing plant are Latino immigrants. The audit comes in the midst of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the company and Unite Here Local 1.

“Until America comes up with a real solution to our immigration crisis, disrupting its own economy is shooting itself in the foot,” Karen Kent, president of Local 1, said. “We will use every resource available to fight for the rights of our members to provide for their loved ones.”

Ruprecht management notified workers about the audit some weeks ago, and the deadline for DHS to release results of the audit was June 26, but Shansky said DHS has not released the audit results. The union criticized the audit itself as an attempt to target immigrants. Father Clete Kiley, UNITE HERE director for immigration and a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, urged President Obama “to ensure the agencies in his administration don’t go rogue.”

Established in 1860, Ruprecht Company is a privately held meat processor and food manufacturer serving domestic and international foodservice and retail customers, according to the company's website. New Hope Investment Fund acquired the company in December 2014.

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