Lawsuit claims US community college forced foreign students to work in dog food factory

Reagan Reese, DCNF

A community college allegedly forced a group of international students to work in a food processing and dog food factory as a part of their study abroad program, according to a lawsuit.

Western Iowa Tech Community College offers a program that provides international students with a J-1 visa in order for them to study and be employed, according to a lawsuit filed by 14 international students from Chile. The 14 students were allegedly forced to work in a dog factory receiving less than their promised wage and no academic credit.

The students were allegedly sent to work by the college at food packing company Tur Pak Foods as well as pet food manufacturing company Royal Canin, where they were allegedly supposed to be making $15 per hour but were only receiving $7.25 per hour, the lawsuit states. Students were allegedly forced to work more than 40 hours a week and threatened with the revocation of their visa and debt if they missed work.

Students allegedly carried “50 pound bags of rice and meat to a mixer” and “50 pound blocks of frozen meat” to make the dog food, the lawsuit states.

The work allegedly did not align with the students’ majors, which ranged from Robotics and Automation to Culinary Arts, according to the lawsuit. The students originally complained in November 2019 and shortly after lost their jobs and were told to rely on local food pantries.

The students also claim they were allegedly only allowed to take classes with Brazilians and Chileans in the study abroad program, despite being enrolled as full-time students at the community college, the lawsuit says.

Leonard Strand, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, ruled in May that the lawsuit would move forward on the charges of human trafficking, fraud, breach of contract and emotional distress against Tur Pak Foods and Royal Canin, the College Fix reported.

The college, Tur Pak Foods, Royal Canin and the attorney for the students, did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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