NEWBERRY, S.C. — A shabby bunkhouse sits just beyond the shadows of this small city’s colossal Kraft meatpacking plant. Inside live a few older men with nowhere else to go, and several younger men who pay to throw down a mattress.
There is also Leon Jones.
Mr. Jones, 64, has an intellectual disability and a swollen right hand that aches from 40 years of hanging live turkeys on shackles that swing them to their slaughter. His wallet contains no photos or identification, as if, officially, he does not exist.
And yet he is more than just another anonymous grunt in a meat factory. Mr. Jones may be the last working member of the so-called Henry’s Boys — men recruited from Texas institutions decades ago to eviscerate turkeys, only to wind up living in virtual servitude, without many basic rights.
This may sound familiar. In 2009, a sister of one of the men complained toThe Des Moines Register about exploitation in a bunkhouse in Iowa, prompting investigations, reforms and a momentous court verdict concerning the workplace abuse of people with disabilities. This year, The New York Times published an examination of the case and its aftermath.