It takes only a little investigation to learn how bad things have been inside those buildings. The list of offenses for which the DeCosters and their farms have been fined in Iowa and Maine only begins with hiring children and illegal immigrants.
In 2000, Jack DeCoster, the operations’ founder, was named a “habitual violator” of Iowa’s environmental laws. His egg factories have been cited by OSHA for deplorable working conditions. In 2003, Mr. DeCoster paid more than $1.5 million to settle an employment discrimination suit charging that 11 women working in the Clarion plants had been subject to sexual harassment, including rape and threats of retaliation. There have been nearly 1,500 illnesses as a result of the salmonella outbreak. Every one of the billions of eggs produced this way has been tainted.
The recall, which began Aug. 13, involves more than half a billion eggs from the Iowa operations of two leading egg producers, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms. About 1,500 reported cases of Salmonella enteritidis have been linked to tainted eggs since the spring — the largest known outbreak associated with that strain of salmonella.
The F.D.A. inspection reports portray areas of filth and poor sanitation at both operations, including many instances of rodents, wild birds or hens escaped from cages — all of which can carry salmonella — appearing to have had free run of the facilities.
Wright County Egg is owned by Jack DeCoster, who has a long history of environmental, labor and immigration violations at egg operations in Maine, Iowa and elsewhere. The inspection report identified Mr. DeCoster’s son, Peter DeCoster, as the chief operating officer of the Iowa operation.
A reliable source in the Maine legal community tells me that over the years two law firms in the state have dropped Mr. DeCoster as a client. Basically, my source says, because the guy was such a flaming asshole.
Think about that for a minute. How flaming an asshole would a millionaire client have to be for a law firm to fire him? Remember that O.J. Simpson had a lawyer and Tom DeLay had a lawyer. Bernie Madoff had a lawyer. Even Leona Helmsley had a lawyer.