Two lawsuits alleging racketeering, human trafficking and labor law violations have been filed against Simmons Foods Inc. and Christian Alcoholics and Addicts in Recovery (CAAIR), reported the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal news outlet.
In addition to being the eighteenth largest broiler company in the United States, Simmons is also the parent company of Simmons Pet Foods.
The plaintiffs may have been involved in the supply chain for Rachel Ray’s Nutrish pet food, PetSmart, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, KFC and Wal-Mart, among other brands, according to the report.
The plaintiffs claim that they were expected to work without pay in Simmons poultry processing plants as part of a drug rehabilitation program. The CAAIR program places alleged drug offenders into jobs, as opposed to them being sent to prison.
Allegations of unpaid, coerced labor
“CAAIR and Simmons both derive an economic benefit from the slave labor performed by Plaintiffs and Putative Class Members,” wrote one group of plaintiffs’ lawyers in legal documents.
“Many residents of CAAIR are sent to CAAIR by Oklahoma drugs courts so that they can receive drug and alcohol treatment,” wrote the other group of plaintiff’s lawyers in legal documents. “Instead of providing such treatment, however, CAAIR, which is not a qualified treatment provider under the Oklahoma Drug Court Act and its implementing regulations, simply uses these men for its own benefit and for the profits of its corporate partners.”
The lawyers accused the defendants of denying counseling and rehabilitation to program participants. CAAIR and Simmons allegedly threatened to ensure that participants would be sent to prison if they complained about their involuntary servitude.
“In short, CAAIR, with the material cooperation and assistance of the other defendants in this action, operates a forced labor camp – enterprises long outlawed in Oklahoma, in the United States and, indeed, throughout the civilized world,” wrote the lawyers.
The program participants are seeking unpaid wages, attorney’s fees and other damages.
CAAIR response to slave labor allegations
CAAIR told Reveal that they intended to defend themselves in court, and asserted that the organization was proud of its efforts without speaking to the particular cases involved in the lawsuits.