Stop Sweatshops in Mariana Islands
by Carolyn Dellatore
Many people do not realize that goods labeled "Made in USA" are not always telling the truth. An example of this is products produced in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Since the 1980ís, a $1 billion garment industry has been thriving at the expense of workers who live and toil in the deplorable conditions provided for them by the companies who manufacture goods from that part of the world. These workers are forced to work up to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, earning $3.05 an hour or less. With this meager wage, these men and women are forced to exist in inhumane conditions. In the Mariana Islands, there are no U.S. import tariffs and no U.S. quota restrictions. Several foreign investors from China and Korea are attracted to this location because of the lax immigration laws. Foreign workers from the Philippines, China and Bangladesh hold more than 90% of the garment industry jobs. Workers are promised high wages and good working conditions, so they agree to pay a recruitment fee when they take the job. The fees can be as high as $7000 dollars, thus leaving the worker in a state of indentured servitude. Before being allowed to work they are often forced to sign away basic human rights such as the right to practice their religions, quit the job, marry or join a union.
In the last 5 years, contractors in the Marianas have received more than 1000 citations for violating U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. Several companies have had cases file against them, but that is not enough to put an end to this abuse of human rights. The Gap, Levi-Strauss & co., Dayton-Hudson, J.C. Penny, the Limited, Lane Bryant, Brooks Brothers, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and The Talbotís Inc. are all companies that produce clothing in the Mariana Islands and the only way to get their attention is to boycott their products. Make your voice heard.