Is there a halachic reason to be opposed to Uri L'Tzedek and Tav haYosher? Why do some frum Jews oppose it?

Really the only things that I can find is that Uri L'Tzedek is left-wing and led by YCT rabbis, but this particular project of theirs seems to me like it should be relatively uncontroversial.

I know this is not the case, though, because a number of restaurants have refused the Tav simply because they think that it will be bad for business.

Information about Uri L'Tzedek: Wikipedia, homepage

Tav HaYosher: Wikipedia, homepage

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    @Daniel, could you add information (or links to same) to your question about what these are and something about what the issue is? (I see you've done some of this in comments, but the question is a better place for that information -- easier to read, and comments can be deleted without leaving a revision history.) Thanks. – Monica Cellio Jul 25 '12 at 15:31
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    Until you demonstrate that some people are opposed, maybe you should ask in a way that doesn't presuppose there is a problem, like "Is this a good thing?" "What are the reasons to support or oppose?" – Double AA Jul 25 '12 at 15:35
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    @Daniel, thanks for adding the links; that's better. Could you add something about the opposition you're talking about? What form does it take? Thanks. – Monica Cellio Jul 25 '12 at 15:57
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    @MonicaCellio: I have to admit, I can't really find anything online about the opposition. That's why I'm kind of confused. I know it exists, though, because I know many people who have a strong disdain for Uri L'Tzedek and their programs. There are also plenty of articles online claiming that there is a controversy, but never actually discussing it. I guess I'm trying to find out what the controversy is all about. – Daniel Jul 25 '12 at 16:01
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Quoting from "Rubashkin Revenge: Ethical Certificates at Center of Dispute" (Jewish Journal, Los Angeles, July 25, 2012:

Although the pushback against the Tav appears to be coming primarily, if not exclusively, from individuals affiliated with the Chabad Lubavitch movement, there is no evidence that any official encouragement came from Chabad, according to the organization’s leaders and those involved in the anti-Tav efforts. ...

The issue appears not to be the Tav certification, per se, but rather that in 2008, Uri L’Tzedek was the instigator of a boycott of products from the Agriprocessors meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa, in the wake of the massive immigration raid that closed down the plant.

  • +1 This is actually a sourced answer! Can anyone clarify when Tav certification began? – Double AA Jul 30 '12 at 17:29
  • "Uri L’Tzedek established the Tav Hayosher in 2009 as a free certification. To qualify, employers must demonstrate that they calculate worker’s hours accurately, pay wages—including overtime – promptly and in full and grant breaks to their employees, as required by law. Studies have shown that many food-service businesses – both kosher and non—fall short of these basic legal requirements." – Seth J Jul 30 '12 at 17:32
  • It began shortly after the rubashkin incident, in response to it. – Daniel Jul 30 '12 at 17:32
  • @SethJ So the Tav itself was never involved in the Rubashkin affair, so any complaints against it based on Rubashkin are really against the parent organization, Uri L'Tzedek. That is in my mind an important distinction. – Double AA Jul 30 '12 at 17:34
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    Regardless of whether the position makes sense, this does seem like it is a reason why people oppose the Tav. Therefore, I am accepting this as the answer. – Daniel Jul 30 '12 at 18:40

I am not sure why people are opposed, as different people give different reasons, and there is no "official" opposition front. Moreover, while no one (to the best of my knowledge) forbids one to place a sticker saying "R' Yanklowitz likes this company", there are several sticky points in this particular case, most stemming from a lack of honesty as to their hechsher vis-a-vis halacha:

  1. Even had this kind of hechsher would be done by big Orthodox Rabbonim, many would question it's validity. Most food hechsherim do not engage in "economic warfare", they just tell you what one is allowed to eat. Most (if not all) hechsherim will certify produce made by non-Jews, non-religious Jews, and even anti-religious Jews. This organization, on the other hand, tells people to boycott companies that do not follow their standards. One can just imaging what would happen if this was implemented with an eye on Orach Chayim and Yoreh Deyah. (Can you imagine what would have happened had the Eida Hachareidis announced that they are opening a new Hashgacha that this product is owned by "frum Jews", "Ashkenazi Jews", "Anti-Zionist Jews", etc.)

    Unlike non-kosher food which is forbidden to be consumed, food produced (even) in places where the owner repeatedly cheats his workers is still permitted.

  2. When a person wants to give a "hechsher" to certify if something is done right, one should be a Torah scholar of sufficient caliber to be able to issue psak regarding that which one certifies. No one would eat of a hashgacha that doesn't have a Rov standing behind the product. So too, when one certifies a company for keeping Choshen Mishpat, one would have expected to have a few practicing dayanim on the board. He doesn't have any. Not from the RCA or from any other organization.

  3. If they want to enforce "fairness" and demand that the owner of the company keep to the the laws of Choshen Mishpat, they should insist on all sides keeping to Choshen Mishpat. One of the rules in Jewish law is that whenever one side has a claim on the other, one goes to Beis Din. Yet, that "Hashgacha" will not force the sides to mediate in a neutral Beis Din if there are any disputes. If one wants to be just, he must be just to all sides, and the employer as well as the employer have rights in Halacha. Moreover, their website implies that they don't enforce the rights of banks, clients, suppliers, etc.

  4. Even ignoring all of the above, the fact is that when one wants to be a mashgiach on Yashrus, he should try to live up to that standard. He went on a campaign against Rubashkin (and implied that this was the reason for his Hashgacha). If he had such Yashrus, I would have expected at least for him to try taking Rubashkin to a few Battei Dinim before going to the non-Jewish media and government.

  5. " In my opinion, the Tav deceptively insinuates that carrying the Tav adds some added level of halachic permissibility to the food it serves, a misconception that could easily deceive a kosher restaurant owner less knowledgeable in the laws of kashrut." Source

    In other words, it appears to be another "Social Justice" organization cloaking themselves as a "Torah" organization.

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    I don't see the relevance of your last statement. Since when does the Torah not advocate Social Justice of this kind? – Double AA Jul 30 '12 at 23:01
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    You keep talking about a lack of beis din and not following choshen mishpat as if that was what they were trying to do. They are trying to enforce American civil law on the institutions because a) it is certainly dina demalchuta dina according to all definitions b) (in the case of Jewish store owners) it is a big chillul hashem if/when the world finds out, as evidenced for better or worse by Rubashkin c) (in the case of a non Jewish proprietor or worker) a beis din is meaningless to them d) in most cases American civil law helps to improve the lives of the workers, which is a plus qua Judaism. – Double AA Jul 30 '12 at 23:11
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    Can you even name one aspect of American civil law in these cases which directly contradicts the Torah? – Double AA Jul 30 '12 at 23:11
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    Can you source your first paragraph? AFAICT they advocate eating in their places and don't say anything about the multitudes of other restaurants which they haven't inspected. It seems no different than the classical kashrus line: Not Recommended. – Double AA Jul 30 '12 at 23:21
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    @ShmuelBrin have you heard of a posek who says you can't buy anything from a non religious Jew ever? No. We have sliding scales. Particularly in the ElAl case it would be a bigger Chillul Hashem and it wouldn't even convince the workers to change their minds. In the Tav's case the opposites of both those statements are true. You can't deny that not supporting Ovrei Aveira is a Jewish Halakhic value where it'll be productive. Consider the famous discussion of giving food to one who won't make a bracha nowadays. – Double AA May 15 '14 at 22:33

You ask two questions:

Is there a halachic reason to be opposed to Uri L'Tzedek and Tav haYosher? Why do some frum Jews oppose it?

I cannot answer the first. As to the second, the culture of the orthodox Jewish community is that it is resistant to change and that new trends tend to meet opposition at first. Here, for example, rabbis for centuries, and (more relevantly) even rabbis of last century, had seemingly not seen a need for such certification, so it can be viewed as not necessary. Moreover, it may be seen (even if inaccurately) as imposing rules (the certification's criteria) over and above halacha, which is often viewed as repugnant. Finally, the identities of the people who started it is no saving grace: had a gadol hador started the tav, a greater number of orthodox people may have acceded to his judgement as steeped in Tora.

I'm not passing judgement on the validity of these views (perhaps they are valid, perhaps not). You asked why some "frum" Jews oppose it, and this is my conjecture.

(Compare a similar though not identical answer about confirmation.)

  • See my comment: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/18021/… I think this may be different. – Seth J Jul 25 '12 at 18:20
  • @SethJ, good point. The "Why do some frum Jews oppose it?" part of the question may be unanswerable. Perhaps it should be excised from the question, leaving only the halachic question? – msh210 Jul 25 '12 at 18:31
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    Or he could ask if there are any published statements providing justification for opposition. – Seth J Jul 25 '12 at 20:14
  • I like @SethJ 's suggestion. – Double AA Jul 30 '12 at 5:04
  • There now seems to be [limited] information online about the opposition. Actually, I wonder if that article I quoted from was what inspired this question. – Seth J Jul 30 '12 at 17:29

There was an initiative very similar to this from non-halachic groups, and in general an objection raised about a non-Torah true organization imposing requirements in the guise of a hechsher. Perhaps there is perception that the objection raised in that case apply here. I am not informed if the same issues apply here or not. They inlcude: Being founded following the Rubashkin incident, where the charges were not found to be have veracity - so therefore founded in falsehood; The certification being focused on food establishents, (and only kosher ones)- where if it was genuinly interested in ethical standards should apply to any business, such as clothing manufacturers; Would harm the kashrus standards, confuse companies who would be expected to carry a second certification; Is assuming the role of enforcing or making statments on enforcement of regulations already managed by local, state, federal labor laws and government enforcement agencies.

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    Didn't the Rubashkin company plead guilty to 80 or so counts of something? – Double AA Jul 25 '12 at 20:27
  • I am sure that they would love to focus on clothing manufacturers, etc. but my understanding is that they are a somewhat small organization. – Daniel Jul 25 '12 at 20:38

The Tav was founded on lies against Rubashkin. the Tav was given information by the Union, Rubashkin was found not guilty on the child labor charges which proves the Tav can make up lies on business owners.

Legal authorities of the land are already in-place, the Tav Heksher makes it seem that Jews will under-pay employees. That is why many kosher eateries wont accept the Tav and their bullies, which started on lies agains Rubashkin.

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    Rubashkin was found guilty of 86 counts of fraud. He was acquitted of the child labor charges because he might not have known about them, but Agriprocessors as a corporation pleaded guilty to child labor charges as well. (The results of the court cases are available on Wikipedia.) – Daniel Jul 27 '12 at 21:46
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    @TheFedexGuy A source for any of your claims would be appreciated. – Double AA Jul 27 '12 at 21:48
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    @Daniel the problem Tav has with Rubashkin has nothing to do with bank fraud. They went on a campaign to destroy him before. Their problems were related to Child labor and animal rights. However, they (to the best of my knowledge, correct me if I am wrong) never went to any Beis Din (not even RCA, etc.) with Rubashins over these (and all other) issues. – Shmuel Brin Jul 27 '12 at 22:11
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    @ShmuelBrin: Thank you! That is a real answer to this question (and I think a more relevant one than the the answer you gave above, actually) – Daniel Jul 27 '12 at 23:47
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    @TheFedexGuy It wasn't a farce. He was employing them. It couldn't be proven that he knew he was employing them, but he definitely was employing them. Why do you keep lying? – Double AA Jul 31 '12 at 0:07

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