FSM urges US to investigate labor abuse allegations


The Federated States of Micronesia has asked the U.S. government to investigate allegations involving multiple FSM citizens being abused by an employer in Iowa.

The request was lodged through the FSM Embassy in Washington, D.C. after FSM president David W. Panuelo learned of the potential abuse. The U.S. government was asked to assist in investigating allegations that several citizens of the FSM are suffering from “serious and sustained abuse” by Seaboard Triumph Food, a pork processing facility in Sioux City, Iowa.

The FSM government noted that the allegations include potential human trafficking, labor abuse, and other violations.

“…We have received reports that representatives of Seaboard Triumph Food have been traveling to Pohnpei, FSM, to recruit Micronesian citizens to work at Seaboard Triumph Food’s Iowa facility,” the diplomatic letter noted.

The allegations of abuse include employees saying that the work they are performing is inconsistent with the descriptions provided by the recruiters and with the terms of employment contracts they signed; physical and emotional harassment, including verbal abuse; issuing false social security numbers for employees; seizing passports and withholding passports to threaten or punish workers; and refusing to provide employees with copies of their employment contracts.

Noting that “dozens of FSM citizens” have reported the allegations, the FSM government asked the U.S. government to investigate under the terms of the Amended Compact and its related agreements, including the Agreement Regarding Protections for Citizens of Micronesia Seeking to Engage in Employment in the US Pursuant to Recruitment or Other Placement Services.

Section D(1) of the Law Enforcement Agreement between the FSM and the United States specifically provides that the U.S. government will investigate the mistreatment of recruited FSM citizens.

“The [FSM government] is extremely concerned about these allegations. Under the Compact of Free Association between the FSM and the U.S., FSM citizens have the right to live and work in the U.S. without obtaining a visa,” the letter said. “The [FSM government] respectfully requests the [US government’s] urgent attention and action on this matter. We would be pleased to provide additional information as needed.”

The FSM Embassy has also reported the allegations to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. A press statement from the FSM government said that it will continue to explore other options to ensure its citizens are safe and protected while employed in the United States.

FSM citizens who live in the U.S. are encouraged to contact the FSM Embassy in Washington, D.C. about this matter, or any other matter that requires governmental assistance or intervention at +1-202-223-4383, dcm@fsmembassydc.org, or through its online contact form available at http://www.fsmembassydc.org/webform/contact-us. (Erwin Encinares/Iva Maurin)

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