Sunday, January 28, 2007

Worn in the USA

While this isn't particularly recent news, it does seem to be vastly underreported. Most of us are aware of the wretched conditions that many clothing factories operate under. Some of us have even made deliberate attempts to refrain from supporting companies that make their profits on the backs of slave labor and have chosen to instead spend our own hard earned wages buying American made products, believing that we are not perpetuating the problem. But, unbeknownst to most, many of those same garments are being manufactured in the Mariana Islands, a territory of the United States, and can legally tout the label "Made in the USA".

The overwhelming majority of the workers in the Marianas are immigrants who were promised a better life only to be placed in sweatshops, working long hours under grueling conditions for little pay and with none of the benefits that we have come to enjoy here in the States, albeit seemingly in decline. Many young women, lured with the vow of employment in the restaurant business, have instead been forced into prostitution and some have even been made to undergo abortions.

The Marianas frequent visitors have included Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay. It is often used as a playground for important politicos and DeLay, who squandered countless tax dollars there, after what was to be an oversight tour of conditions there, once announced at a New Year's Eve party attended by many of the factory owners, "You represent everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America."

I doubt that the American public would proudly exclaim that we stand for inhumane working conditions, sex slavery, and forced abortions. Do the people who represent you?

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amocat said...

It seems that the plight of the workers, mostly women and young girls, in the Mariana Islands has taken a back seat to many other topics. Yes there are many important topics but why can't this human rights abuse in the name of "Made In The USA" be taken on and pushed?

This is something that should be right up the alley of every progressive Democrat in congress. This should be something that any feeling and sane human being would want to see stopped, even if only to remove "Made In The USA" from slavery and abuse.

"Made In The USA"?

These people do NOT represent me but they do represent all of US as the USA. Makes me sick!

franktheliberal said...

Excellent post Traci. This is the quiet, ugly little story that brought Delay and Abramhof down. Although it's not as sexy and glamorous as golf trips to Scotland, it's what got MY attention. The most jaw-dropping aspect of this thing is listening to Delay claim that what the businessmen there were doing embodies what the Republican party is all about. Forced abortions, slave labor and sex slaves ARE what the neo-con agenda IS. Thanks for keeping this story alive.

John said...

Actually the senate will hold a hearing on feb 8 regarding the marianas situation. It will be chaired by Sen. Bingaman

TKelly said...

It's very good to know that there will be an investigation into this. I hope C-SPAN airs it.

I appreciate all of your comments!

mirth said...

Expect solid things from my NM senator Jeff Bingaman. He's been waiting for the opportunity to rise above the other senile do-what-Bush-tells-me one, Pete Domenici.
Bingaman is a good man.

TKelly said...

Thanks for all of your comments.

Does anyone know if the hearings regarding the Marianas actually took place today?

CJT said...

The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources finally held a hearing on Feb. 8 regarding the current situation in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The hearing focused on whether the CNMI should be brought under U.S. labor and immigration law enforcement jurisdiction. Fortunately labor reform in the CNMI is heading in the right direction. The proposal to increase the minimum wage to the federal level passed with ease as part of the nationwide minimum wage increase legislation. I truly hope that this is only the beginning of more good things to come. Unfortunately, a lot more still needs to be done. David B. Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs said that “Federalizing the CNMI's immigration system needs to be done in a manner that would not cause needless economic or fiscal harm.” Fifty percent of the residents there are foreign employees and that fact must be taken into account when reforming the immigration laws. We certainly do not want to hurt the people we intended to help. We must also consider that the people there currently have no way to change policies that may be detrimental to them because they are not represented in the U.S. congress. Consequently, they turn to hiring lobbyists, and as we have seen, lobbyists are not representing the interests of these people.

TKelly said...

Thank you, CJT, for this useful information. This is indeed a complicated matter, but it is good to know that people are beginning to get informed and that steps are being put into place. We have to start somewhere.