News: Sweatshop Victory in the Marianas Islands
news: For more than a decade Co-op America and our members have been
working together to end sweatshops, human trafficking, and exploitation
on the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US Territory in
the Western Pacific.
On April 10, 2008 the US Senate voted
91-4 to finally extend federal labor and immigration laws to the
Mariana Islands. The House has already passed the Bill and it will be
signed into law. (For background on this issue, please see our
previous editorials here and here.)
is a long-delayed victory to end some of the worse labor abuse in the
world. In 1992 the owners of sweatshops on the main island of Saipan
were fined $9.2 million for labor violations. In 2004 a high-profile
1999 lawsuit against 27 US name-brand retailers and 23 Saipan garment
factories was finally settled for $20 million.
years, Congressional hearings and dozens of reports from human rights
workers, NGOs and the US Government detailed an economic system in the
Mariana Islands based on exploitation and abuse. For years it was
clear that federal control of labor, immigration and custom laws was
required to shut down the system of abuse. And yet, since 1995 every
effort to pass legislation to place the Marianas Islands fully under US
laws and oversight was killed by lobbyists like Jack Abramoff and his
This obstacle to justice has
finally been removed. Human rights advocates and the workers are
celebrating (you can join them at their Web site, Unheard No More).
To learn more about sweatshops and how to take action, download our latest Guide to Ending Sweatshops online.