(TW: Severe ableism, abuse)
You must read this. My heart aches for what these men endured.
For more than 30 years, he (Clayton Berg) and a few dozen other men with intellectual disabilities — affecting their reasoning and learning — lived in a dot of a place called Atalissa, about 100 miles south of here. Every morning before dawn, they were sent to eviscerate turkeys at a processing plant, in return for food, lodging, the occasional diversion and $65 a month. For more than 30 years.
Their supervisors never received specialized training; never tapped into Iowa’s social service system; never gave the men the choices in life granted by decades of advancement in disability civil rights. Increasingly neglected and abused, the men remained in heartland servitude for most of their adult lives.
This Dickensian story — told here through court records, internal documents and extensive first-time interviews with several of the men — is little known beyond Iowa. But five years after their rescue, it continues to resound in halls of power. Last year the case led to the largest jury verdict in the history of theEqual Employment Opportunity Commission: $240 million in damages — an award later drastically reduced, yet still regarded as a watershed moment for disability rights in the workplace. In both direct and subtle ways, it has also influenced government initiatives, advocates say, including President Obama’s recent executive order to increase the minimum wage for certain workers.
Overall, the Atalissa case has been a catalyst for change, according to SenatorTom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, a longtime champion of people with disabilities, who still struggles with what these vulnerable men endured in his home state.
“I hate to see what happened to them,” the senator says. “But, by gosh, something might happen from them.”
Much more at the link. The title is a link.
I read the entire article after following the link. My heart is breaking for those men, who never truly had the opportunity to be boys. To run, play catch, enjoy a game of Go Fish, are all things those men were denied for decades.
Many will say “It was a different time back then.” Yes, it was different. But just because something is different doesn’t make it right or fair. Those men worked three times as hard as those without mental or emotional disabilities. The men barely got paid and were denied proper medical attention. They lived a life in unimaginable conditions and always seemed to fear the next punishment.
A big corporation held these men captive, like prisoners, and gave them no chance of freedom. All that mattered to the company was that the men showed up to perform the jobs that no one else wanted to do.
The men who were left trapped over the years are now free. Some living together in group homes, others ending up in nursing homes due to age and poor health. I think that their hearts will always be trapped.
Nothing can ever erase their bloody memories of being forced to slaughter millions of turkey over their lifetime.
No one can ever ease the trauma that was quietly endured behind the bright colored doors of the old school house on the hill.
(via maggiemunkee)Source: queerability