Shuttered Windom pork plant could be operational in a couple of months

Source: ABC

State officials say the shuttered Hylife pork plant could reopen in the near future under new ownership, Iowa Premium Pork. This means some of those former workers could have a chance to come back.

Last month, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reported that more than a thousand Hylife workers lost their jobs including hundreds of visa immigrant workers. Hylife purchased the plant just three years ago, reporting losses of up to $6 million a month.

The plant went up for sale in April and when Iowa Premium Pork reached a tentative deal to purchase the facility last month, they didn’t plan to keep any of the employees. Now, state officials say that could change.

“I think there will be opportunities for those workers that are still in Windom,” said Commissioner Thom Petersen with the MN Dept. of Agriculture. “I think you’re going to see more automation in that plant and fewer workers ultimately. But it’s going to be good for the city long term.”

Hylife employs the highest number of visa-holding immigrant workers in the nation. Many of those workers were laid off after the plant’s closure.

Last month, an immigration lawyer said a wage theft investigation opened a path for deferred action or work authorization to visa holders who were supposed to go back to their country within ten days of the plant’s closure.

“Deferred action is an immigration status that protects an individual from deportation, as well as providing them work authorization to legally be employed in the United States,” explained Erin Schutte Wadzinski, founder of Kivu Law.

Former workers are in limbo — there’s a chance they can find work or even come back to the plant once it’s operational again. State officials are hopeful there won’t be a repeat with the new ownership.

“This plant that does about 5,000 hogs a day is something that’s really important that we have some diversity in our food supply. And so, we’re hopeful that that plant gets up and running,” said Petersen.

The city of Windom received $14 million in state aid from the legislature to help partly with unfinished housing projects built for Hylife workers as well as wastewater improvements and recruitment efforts to help find a buyer.