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4 ex-workers of turkey company in protective care

NEWBERRY (AP) — Four mentally disabled former employees of a now-defunct turkey company have been placed in protective care in South Carolina.

The employees had worked for Henry’s Turkey Service, a company that was ordered to pay millions for mistreating workers in Iowa. The South Carolina employees had spent years living in a dilapidated bunkhouse in Newberry, the New York Times reported recently.

Deputy Sheriff Todd Johnson said the four adults were removed from that bunkhouse last week. But he declined to provide details of where they were taken, citing privacy laws. Johnson told the newspaper authorities from several jurisdictions are investigating the workers’ treatment.

The owner of the bunkhouse, Paul Byrd of Texas, said one of the men had worked for years with no vacation while being given $50 a week to spend at Walmart. The men didn’t have bank accounts because they don’t have identification, so Byrd said he kept their money in envelopes.

The situation came to light after one of the mentally disabled men, Leon Jones, gave a Times reporter a tour of the building, which is near a near a turkey plant where Jones said he worked for decades. The other residents of the bunkhouse ranged in age from 60 to 75, and all four of the men were originally from Texas and once worked for Henry’s Turkey Service, which was based in Goldthwaite, Texas.

Henry’s Turkey Service sent hundreds of mentally disabled men from Texas to labor camps in seven states. In Iowa, 32 workers lived in a rundown former schoolhouse in Altalissa for years while working long hours for roughly $65 a month and enduring abuse.

The Iowa operation was shut down in 2009 after family members reported the conditions to state officials. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission later sued over the mistreatment, and the company was ordered to pay nearly $6 million.

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