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State officials on Tuesday confirmed they are working with Iowa authorities after 21 mentally disabled men from Texas, some in a “deteriorated state,” were recovered from a rancid bunkhouse run by a turkey company.
The men, all employees of Henry’s Turkey Service of Goldthwaite, Texas, and who range in age from 39 to 71, were found living inside a 106-year-old school building with trailers attached in the tiny eastern Iowa town of Atalissa, a 30-minute drive from Iowa City.
Federal civil rights prosecutors today were expected to charge a Texas labor broker with illegally discriminating against 21 mentally disabled men recently discovered living in what authorities have described as an Iowa work camp.
"We're moving on it today," Janet Elizondo, deputy director of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Dallas, said this morning.
Elizondo said the charge would be filed on behalf of the mentally disabled men taken into protective custody this week by Iowa officials. The men, who were all living in a century-old school building in eastern Iowa, were working for Henry's Turkey Service in Atalissa, Iowa for the past 30 years.
Henry's, based in Goldthwaite, near Abilene, sent the men to area meat processing plants in Iowa, working for as little as 44 cents an hour. The plants paid the men's wages directly to Henry's, who in turn, took most of their wages for room and board inside the schoolhouse.
However, workers said some of the men who have already arrived at a nursing facility in Midland have been hired out by Henry’s to work.
Six men were placed at a facility in Midland, and Dru Neubauer, a caretaker in Iowa for the men since 1996, said she received a call from a female employee at the Texas facility asking for the men’s Social Security cards.
“She said they needed them for work,” Neubauer said. “I didn’t understand that. I thought they were retired.”
A Texas labor broker earned as much as $40,000 a month off the labor of mentally disabled men sent to work in an Iowa meat processing plant, employees told the Houston Chronicle....
Neubauer said from $7,000 to $10,000 in wages were earned each week by the 21 men.