SIOUX CITY, Iowa —The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) sent a letter to the US State Dept. regarding alleged abuse of multiple citizens that are working at Seaboard Triumph Foods’ (STF) pork processing facility.
According to a report by the Sioux City Journal, the Iowa Economic Development Authority put financial incentives on hold while the allegations are being investigated.
In its initial complaint, FSM stated that dozens of citizens were facing “potential human trafficking and labor abuse,” which would violate US laws.
Officials from Micronesia stated in its letter that employees allege that STF harassed Micronesian citizens both physically and emotionally, which included verbal abuse. FSM is made up of hundreds of islands in the Pacific Ocean and is a republic associated with the US.
Employees also alleged that they were issued false social security numbers, their passports were seized and STF refused to provide them copies of their employment contract.
STF provided a statement to MEAT+POULTRY on Oct. 3 that said it was aware of the allegations and it was working with Micronesian staff, the Sioux City Human Rights Commission, and the local United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union to address the allegations.
“The welfare of all employees at STF is extremely important to us, and we are dedicated to providing a safe and welcoming work environment for each of them,” the company said. “Along with our staff, we are also fully committed to complying with all labor laws and regulations, and we pledge our commitment to maintain these values.”
STF said it only recruits employees who voluntarily travel to the US and that all production workers have the same employment rights.
Following their arrival in Iowa, Seaboard Triumph Foods said that Micronesian employees are assigned a temporary Tax Identification Number (TIN) until they receive their permanent social security card. The company also stated it does not have any employee passports in its possession and that Micronesian employees have access to its employment paperwork.
“We will continue to investigate and respond until we’ve demonstrated to the Micronesian Embassy how our Sioux City plant is compliant with all labor laws and regulations and fully addresses their formal inquiry,” STF said.
The company also stated that its policy is to have a harassment-free work environment and that all complaints are investigated promptly.
The processing facility opened on Sept. 5, 2017 and is now the second-largest pork plant in the world. The facility produces a full line of pork products for retail, foodservice, international and further processing markets.
STF is a joint venture owned equally by Seaboard Foods and Triumph Foods, which was formed to construct the new pork processing facility in Sioux City. Seaboard Foods is a subsidiary of Seaboard Corp. with a pork processing plant in Guymon, Oklahoma. Triumph Foods is owned by pork producers with a pork processing plant in St. Joseph, Missouri.