October 1, 2003 | Issue 5

Kohanim Unions Protest Overseas Labor

article pic NEW YORK, NY — [TheKnish.com] Yesterday, the two largest kohanim unions in the country organized a large protest outside the Manhattan headquarters of Agudath Israel. They claim that they've been hurt by the rising trend of parents outsourcing pidyon habens overseas.

The International Brotherhood of Kohanim (IBK) and United Kohanim of America (UKA) protesters say they are losing the lucrative pidyon haben business at a time when five silver dollars don't buy what they used to. A pidyon haben is when a father pays a kohain five sluhim (silver coins) to redeem his first-born son.

Organizers estimated the crowd at several. Police said it was more like a few. Whatever the exact number, it shows the growing dissatisfaction with the relatively new approach to pidyon habens. Parents use cheap kohain labor from Taiwan and China for the redemption.

"It's pure economics," Chavi Sandelberg, first-time mother of a three month old boy, said. "When Yitzy was born we had a choice between paying five sluhim for an American kohain or getting the exact same redemption, from a Chinese kohain, for a quarter of a sela. It's a no brainer."

The president of the IBK, Elazar Katz, claims the sweatshops that the Chinese kohanim are forced to work in are deplorable. "It's been clearly documented," he told a TheKnish.com reporter, "that these foreign kohanim are worked to the bone. They have to do 10 to 20 pidyon habens a day. They are also forced to sit on chairs without armrests. We even heard about some factories that don't have cushions on the chairs. Nobody should be subjected to these working conditions. This also causes low quality redemptions. With union labor you know you're getting a full, guaranteed, redemption."

Rabbi Shloime Klausner, Deputy Executive Director of Agudath Israel, said that parents are choosing overseas options because of the perception of excessive union rules. "When parents see the long list of requirements they get annoyed," he stated. "The coffee breaks, wine breaks are just the tip of the iceberg. Overseas labor is a no frills straightforward solution."

The public is watching this conflict very closely, as this overseas cheap labor trend can expand for other services too. There is already talk of importing Indian gaboim, Swahili shnurers and French poylishes. The unions are girding for the fight.


Pencil Chaim Y got the ball rolling, so you owe him big. He co-founded the TheKnish.com with Martin Bodek, a day which will forever live in famy. His hobbies include gum-chewing, bubblewrap-popping, and comparing chometz horror stories. He lives in a city with people.


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