… Seaboard Triumph Foods told the Sioux City Journal in a statement that it is aware of the allegations. "Seaboard Triumph Foods is compliant with all laws and regulations during the hiring process and remains committed to ensuring a legally compliant work environment for each member of our staff," the statement said. The company did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday by the Des Moines Register…

 

… When it recruited the Micronesians, the company told them it would deduct 11% from their paychecks to pay for their travel to Iowa, Tataipu said. It also promised to provide the new employees with three months of rent and food, she said. But last week, the company said it would start deducting 50% of employees' paychecks to cover those costs, according to Tataipu. When they questioned the deduction, the employees returned to the hotel to find their rooms were locked, she said…

 

 

'They were being exploited': Complaints lodged against Iowa pork plant by Pacific islanders recruited for work

 

Kim Norvell, Des Moines Register (IA)

Oct. 2, 2019

 

Micronesians recruited to move to Iowa and work at a pork processing plant have reported abuse by the company, including human trafficking, labor and verbal abuse.

 

Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday in a news conference that the state will withhold incentives for the company, Seaboard Triumph Foods in Sioux City, while the allegations about its treatment of the Pacific islanders are investigated.

 

The government of the Federated States of Micronesia has formally requested that the United States government look into allegations lodged by employees.

 

Dozens of Micronesian employees have reported "serious and sustained abuse," including the company seizing passports, issuing false Social Security numbers, refusing to provide copies of employment contracts, and providing work that is inconsistent with what recruiters promised, according to the request posted online by the Micronesian embassy.

 

Seaboard Triumph Foods told the Sioux City Journal in a statement that it is aware of the allegations. 

 

"Seaboard Triumph Foods is compliant with all laws and regulations during the hiring process and remains committed to ensuring a legally compliant work environment for each member of our staff," the statement said.

 

The company did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday by the Des Moines Register.

 

The state promised incentives to Seaboard Triumph Foods when the company built its $300 million facility.

 

"We are going to hold and not allocate any of the incentives until the investigation is finalized and we understand, first of all, if that took place and how they are reacting to the allegations that they've been accused of," Reynolds said in her press conference.

 

Mele Tataipu of Mason City, whose two nephews recently quit the jobs they held at Seaboard Triumph Foods for fewer than two months, said the company seized their passports for several weeks, did not follow through on a promise of free room and board for the first three months of employment, and did not provide translators during orientation or throughout their employment. Micronesians speak a language known as Pohnpeian.

 

"They were being exploited," Tataipu said. "They just want to work and support their families back home."

 

Micronesia is a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean. An independent republic that formerly was part of a U.S.-administered territory, the country has an agreement under which its citizens can work in the U.S. without visas or green cards. Micronesian citizens are eligible for Social Security cards.

 

Seaboard Triumph Foods recruited about 200 employees from Micronesia to work at the plant, said Karen Mackey, executive director of the Sioux City Human Rights Commission. The embassy's request said they were specifically recruited from the island of Pohnpei.

 

Most moved to Iowa in the last few months, Mackey said. The employees were being housed at a Sioux City hotel.

 

When it recruited the Micronesians, the company told them it would deduct 11% from their paychecks to pay for their travel to Iowa, Tataipu said. It also promised to provide the new employees with three months of rent and food, she said.

 

But last week, the company said it would start deducting 50% of employees' paychecks to cover those costs, according to Tataipu. When they questioned the deduction, the employees returned to the hotel to find their rooms were locked, she said.

 

"They waited in the lobby for hours coming back from work, not having anything to eat," Tataipu said.

 

She also alleged that the company's recruiter seized employees' passports for several weeks while the company told them it was working to get them Social Security cards. The Micronesian embassy's request says Seaboard Triumph Foods withheld employees' passports "in order to threaten or punish workers."

 

Many employees had no other form of ID and couldn't cash their paychecks, Tataipu said.

 

She said her nephews and other employees have reported the company's actions to the Sioux City Human Rights Commission, which investigates discrimination complaints related to employment, housing, public accommodation, education and credit.

 

Mackey, the commission's executive director, could not confirm that cases had been filed with her office. Those reports are confidential.

 

But Mackey said she has been in touch with Seaboard Triumph Food's executive leadership in the last few days.

 

"Obviously, it was an issue that they were very concerned about and clearly from the conversation with them, they're trying to take steps to make sure any issues are resolved," she said...

 

more

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/2019/10/02/seaboard-triumph-foods-iowa-pork-plant-micronesia-recruits-allege-mistreatment-sioux-city/3843359002/