Settlement Over Saipan Sweatshops

LOS ANGELES, Oct 6, (AP) — Five clothing retailers including Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan on Wednesday agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit over poor working conditions at sweatshops in the U.S. territory of Saipan.

The companies join four other retailers that have already agreed to pay for independent monitoring of Saipan’s garment industry in an effort to comply with American labor laws and international human rights treaties.

Young women are often recruited from China, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Thailand with promises of good wages and agree to be brought to Saipan for a fee, sometimes as high as $10,000.

Saipan is a 13-mile-long Western Pacific island in the Northern Marianas. Labor activists claim that 32 Saipan factories — mostly owned by Chinese, Japanese and Korean subcontractors — stamp clothing with “Made in the USA” tags, which makes consumers believe the items were made in compliance with U.S. labor laws.

The Northern Marianas, seized from Japan in World War II, negotiated a commonwealth relationship with Washington that left control of immigration and minimum wages in local hands. It also exempted Saipan’s exports from U.S. duties and quotas that limit imports.

 Source: Associated Press

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