State officials have reduced fines levied in March for workplace safety violations at the Postville meatpacking plant that was the target of an immigration raid earlier this month. Agriprocessors was fined $182,000 this spring for 39 violations.
The Iowa Division of Labor Services this week agreed to reduce the fine to just less than $43,000 after Agriprocessors officials promised to correct worker safety and health problems identified in the plant. Kerry Koonce, a spokeswoman for Iowa Workforce Development, says reducing such fines is a common practice. "It frequently happens that fines will be reduced," Koonce said. "It has to do with (the company’s) cooperation level in correcting those violations or agreeing to correct them by a certain time, so this is certainly not an unusual instance."
Workplace safety fines are often reduced through negotiations with the company, according to Koonce. "Usually it comes down to when they agree to correct the violations in a certain way or within a certain time frame or they’re able to demonstrate to us that they’ve already corrected those violations, then we work with them to reduce the fines," Koonce said.
According to the state’s inspections, many of the health violations were described as "serious" and involved hazardous chemicals and blood-borne pathogens. Agriprocessors is also under investigation for violating child labor laws. Koonce says the child labor investigation is separate from the health and safety violations. "That’s an ongoing investigation, but right now we’re in holding pattern because the federal government has a lot of the documents we need to complete the child labor investigation," Koonce said.
The May 12 immigration raid at Agriprocessors was the largest in U.S. history. Around 390 workers were detained.