The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) issued a press release today urging members of Congress to pass the “Made in the U.S.A. Label Defense Act of 1999 (HR 1621).
The measure is meant to prevent large corporations for using the labels to mislead consumers. For example, a number of large corporations hold factories in the U.S. territory of Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands. Factories involved in the “Saipan scam” hire foreign workers and use foreign-made materials to produce their goods, yet are currently allowed to market their products as “Made in the U.S.A.” Since products made in Saipan are considered U.S.-manufactured goods, corporations can ship them to the U.S. mainland for sale duty-free.
Wal-Mart and other major U.S. retailers are currently facing a multi-billion dollar lawsuit filed on behalf of 50,000 female workers from China, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Thailand. These women allege that they were lured to Saipan with the promise of good jobs and a good life and arrived to find prison-like conditions were factories and living spaces were surrounded by barbed wire and guards.
The women allege that they were forced to work 12 hours a day, 7days a week in unsanitary factories, were not compensated for overtime, and were paid very poorly. Some of the women were also asked to sign contracts that forbade them to date or marry or otherwise risk pregnancy. There are also allegations of forced abortions.
UFCW President Doug Dority declared, “The American flag and the ‘Made in the USA’ label are being used by big businesses like Wal-Mark to rip-off consumers with sweatshop products. The UFCW will expose the actions of greed corporations to profit off the inhuman treatment of impoverished workers overseas. The Saipan Scam will end.”