A federal commission has ruled the mentally retarded men who lived in a crude “bunkhouse” in the eastern Iowa town of Atalissa had at least one million dollars of their pay siphoned off by the Texas company that ran the bunkhouse. In February of 2009 state officials removed the 21 men who still lived in the old elementary school that had been converted into a bunkhouse for mentally retarded men.
The men had worked at the turkey processing plant in nearby West Liberty. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found the Texas company known as “Henry’s Turkey Service” that ran the bunkhouse collected the men’s wages and gave little of it back to the men.
The City of Atalissa charged the company six-hundred dollars a month to rent the school building. The federal agency found the company made about $10,000 a month in housing charges collected from the men’s paychecks.
The federal agency also found the men were paid far below minimum wage — an average of 41 cents an hour — to work at the plant. They often performed jobs for which other workers were paid $10 an hour. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has proposed a cash settlement for the mentally retarded men who lived at the bunkhouse.