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State restores Sioux City pork plant's financial incentives after probing abuse allegations
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State restores Sioux City pork plant's financial incentives after probing abuse allegations

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Seaboard Triumph Foods building (copy)

The Seaboard Triumph Foods pork plant is shown in Sioux City. 

SIOUX CITY --  State economic development officials have restored financial incentives to Seaboard Triumph Foods, saying an investigation has found no credible evidence the Sioux City pork plant abused or mistreated Micronesian workers.

In September, the government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) lodged a formal request for the U.S. government to investigate STF after dozens of the independent island nation's citizen reported "serious and sustained abuse," including verbal, physical and emotional harassment.

In response, the Iowa Economic Development Authority put a temporary hold on remaining portions of the $16.5 million of incentives the agency had awarded the plant.  

State officials said they finished their review of the case last month.

"We have been working closely with the city and are monitoring the situation," Kanan Kappelman, an IEDA spokeswoman, said Wednesday. "We haven't received any credible evidence thus far; and the hold that has been placed on the project was lifted in early December."

Mayor Bob Scott said Wednesday that he thinks the state made the right decision in lifting the hold on STF's financial incentives.

"I don't think there was credible evidence when there were still so many people down there working every day," Scott said. "Certainly, they obviously must've satisfied the ambassador or whoever it was or it would still be on hold, I would guess."

The plant, which opened in the fall of 2017, employs around 2,000 workers. The city also provided financial incentives, including a $7.7 million property tax waiver for the first five years, based on a scale that will gradually reduce the exemption.

In its official complaint to the U.S. State Department, the Micronesian government said some workers recruited by STF had alleged that after arriving in the U.S., they had to do work inconsistent with what recruiters had told them and the contracts they had signed. They also claimed that STF had issued them fake Social Security numbers, seized their passports and refused to provide them with copies of their employment contracts. 
 
STF, which launched its own investigation into the complaint, said it had provided the workers with a temporary tax identification number until they received their permanent Social Security cards. STF denied holding any employees' passports and said harassment in the workplace is "absolutely prohibited."
 
The State Department turned the Microneasian government's complaint over to the Justice Department. 
 
The IEDA's Kappelman said Wednesday she couldn't speak to the status of any federal investigation because the state is "not privy to that information."
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