Notoriously exploited workers get small settlement

More than two dozen men with intellectual disabilities who worked decades for little pay in a turkey-processing plant will share the money.

Source: Judge’s Ruling Awards $600,000 to Exploited Workers – The New York Times

Dan Barry of the New York Times did extraordinary work in reporting this heart-wrenching case, which he called “The Boys in the Bunkhouse.” It was impossible to read these essays without tearing up.

And it was impossible to read about these poor men and the horrible mistreatment they suffered at the hands of their “employer” without wondering, yet again, how it was that people with relative power over others could behave with such indifference to humanity, with such amorality, with such evil.

This is how Barry begins what may be the last piece in this series:

More than six years after their rescue from virtual servitude, in which they worked for little pay in a turkey processing plant while living in a decrepit Iowa schoolhouse, more than two dozen men with intellectual disabilities will share nearly $600,000 owed to them, after a federal court order issued Thursday in Dallas.

The ruling, by Chief Judge Jorge A. Solis of United States District Court, overrode a confidential arrangement that would have redirected hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to the men, in unpaid court judgments, to the heirs of their former employers, the owners of a Texas-based company called Henry’s Turkey Service.

“The court does not believe it is by accident that the settlement proceeds make their way to the children” of the owners of Henry’s Turkey Service, Judge Solis wrote. “This was an intentional scheme concocted solely to shield a substantial sum of money from the United States’ collection efforts.”

You do see that, don’t you? See what I’ve bolded? These poor men, who in the end got very little to compensate them for lives of virtual slavery, almost got nothing because the heirs to Henry’s Turkey Service–the exploitative employer–nearly grabbed the money.

Judge Jorge Solis deserves a standing ovation and an elevation to the next highest court.

And Dan Barry deserves a Pulitzer and every other prize journalism offers.


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