This morning, over one hundred plant employees of the Mundelein-based Ruprecht Company, a privately-held meat processor and food manufacturer, walked off the job on strike in response to threats of a pending immigration audit by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
A press conference with striking workers will be held outside of Chicago’s U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement office, 101 W. Congress Parkway at 4:00 pm CST today.
The workers, nearly all Latino immigrants, are members of UNITE HERE, Chicago’s hospitality union. Ruprecht is currently in a labor dispute with the union, which has filed unfair labor practice charges over the company’s failure to provide information regarding the potential audit, and the use of temporary workers in recent weeks.
Meat-packing workers operate heavy machinery in the course of their work and work in extremely cold environments.
“Our immigration policies and our labor enforcement policies should help America, not hurt us,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez of Chicago, a national leader on immigration issues. “Doesn’t the Department of Homeland Security have better uses for their manpower and resources than taking productive members of America’s workforce off the line? It makes no sense.”
Two weeks ago, Ruprecht management met with workers to give notice of the audit’s initiation. Today was the deadline for the Department of Homeland Security to report the results of the audit. Workers walked off the job from 7 am – 9:30 am.
“Why is ICE still targeting hard-working people just trying to support their families?” said Karen Kent, President of Local 1.
“Until America comes up with a real solution to our immigration crisis, disrupting its own economy is shooting itself in the foot. We will use every resource available to fight for the rights of our members to provide for their loved ones.”
“These courageous workers have sacrificed their time and pay today to take a stand, and I am proud to support them,” says Father Clete Kiley, UNITE HERE Director for Immigration and a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
“When will the federal government get its act together? We appeal to President Obama to ensure the agencies in his administration don’t go rogue.”
At today’s press conference, Ruprecht workers will speak about their collective decision to organize the walk-off.