Jack Abramoff

As the Abramoff lobby scandal continues to rake up the muck in Washington DC, it is worth noting that it is not just North American Indians and Palestinians who have been at the receiving end of Jack’s shennanigans but also many Bangladeshi migrant workers!

One facet of the scandal that has hit the US papers are all the junkets enjoyed by congressmen, and Tom DeLay in particular, to a white-sand paradise called Saipan. But what is Saipan and where the hell is it? Well if you have had labels by Tommy Hilfiger, Gap and Calvin Klein, there is a good chance these clothes with “Made in USA” labels came from there….. The Northern Mariana Islands, a Pacific archipelago located about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines, were obtained by the USA from Japan after the war. Saipan, the largest of the 14 Marianas, is the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and the centre of its $1 billion garment industry.

And that’s where the paradise bit ends…..Jack ensured through all his lobbying that this out of the way bit of America retained power to control its wage and labour relations. And the result was this:

The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands was a for-profit American labor gulag. Women were flown in from China, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bangladesh, India and other underdeveloped countries. They lived 10 or more to a room in workers’ compounds surrounded by fences topped by razor wire. Privacy was sheets suspended between cots. Sanitation was poor. Women queued up at the single bathroom, faucet and shower provided them.

They often worked 70-hour weeks and received no overtime pay. At times, some worked around the clock for two or even three days to meet production quotas. They had little choice. Many workers spent much of their first year paying off the $5,000 to $7,000 they had paid labor recruiters to book their jobs and transportation.

Read the full extract HERE.

Bangladeshi labour contractors, or should i say labour entrepreneurs, were on the make too. The classic trick of taking the migrant workers’ money, placing them in a foreign land without a job operated in Saipan too. In a five year old news report, hundreds of Bangladeshis are said to have been living as illegals, and destitute and unable to come home. I wonder what has happend to them now. (Some were told they were going to Los Angeles and that their work was a train ride away….) Read the San Francisco Chronicle article HERE.