WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) -- A former supervisor at a kosher slaughterhouse testified Tuesday that he told the manager that children were working in the plant but his former boss did nothing to address the problem.

Former supervisor Matt Derrick testified against Sholom Rubashkin, who faces 83 child labor charges stemming from a May 2008 raid at the former Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in which 389 illegal immigrants, including 31 children, were detained. Rubashkin is accused of employing underage workers, allowing them to work around dangerous equipment and hazardous substances and having them work more hours than allowed by state law.

Each count is punishable by up to 30 days in jail. Rubashkin also faces sentencing in federal court in a separate financial fraud case that followed the raid at the Postville plant.

Derrick told jurors Rubashkin ignored his reports about teens working in the meatpacking plant.

"I brought up that we had children out on the floor working, and how they were exhausted and that we needed a break," he said. "He didn't seem to want to solve the problem."

It was the second consecutive day that former underage workers testified.

Joel Eduardo Rucal said he and his girlfriend dropped out of eighth grade to work at Agriprocessors, where he pulled 12-hour shifts that started at 6 p.m. Rucal testified he used knives to cut poultry and suffered cuts himself. He said he spent his break cleaning and sharpening his knife.

Rucal also testified that he poured a powder into a container of water and the vapors burned his eyes and nose. He said his lip swelled badly when some of the water splashed on his face.

Another witness, William A. Musus Alonzo, testified he began working in the plant's sanitation department when he was 13. He used a pressurized hose to wash equipment with hot water and chlorine.

He said he didn't sleep after finishing his 12-hour shifts because his eyes burned.

Alonzo, 17, said he learned his job from co-workers and didn't receive any safety training from plant officials. When he needed new safety equipment, he had to buy it himself.

Alonzo said he lied about his age and name to get a job at Agriprocessors. He now lives in Decorah with a family that adopted him.

Alvaro David Ajin Garcia said he started skinning chicken legs at the plant when he was 16.

He testified vapors from a chemical concoction burned his lungs and when he complained, his supervisors did nothing.

Garcia said he sometimes saw Rubashkin walk through his department but he never spoke to him or got very near to him. Sometimes he didn't see Rubashkin for months, he said.

The witnesses were among a group of former workers prosecutors flew in from Guatemala to testify at the trial.

Derrick, the former supervisor, also testified said he didn't tell anyone about the minors because he and his family had received death threats. He said when he approached his supervisor with a written threat found in his locker, the supervisor threw it away.

Derrick said he quit his job after 17 months because of concerns with worker safety, illegal immigration and children working long hours. Most of the 40 employees in his meat cutting department were underage, he said.

"I think I had more children working on the cut-up floor than I had adults," he said.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

Copyright 2010 The AP.

Recommended for you