News/US/CNMI: More Clothing Companies Added to Suit

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Subject: News/US/CNMI: More Clothing Companies Added to Suit
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Sat Apr 22 2000 - 09:46:40 EDT


More Clothing Companies Added to Suit
March 3, 2000

HONOLULU (AP) Six more American clothing manufacturers were added to a
class-action lawsuit Friday alleging sweatshop conditions at factories in
the Northern Mariana Islands.

Levi Strauss & Co., Calvin Klein Inc., Brooks Brothers Inc., Abercrombie &
Fitch Co., The Talbots Inc. and Woolrich Inc. were added to the lawsuit
filed on behalf of 30,000 current and former garment workers employed in
factories there.

The six manufacturers join The Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Wal-Mart and J.C.
Penney in being accused of violating U.S. labor laws in a conspiracy with
foreign-owned subcontractors.

Nine companies, including Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom and J. Crew, agreed to
settlements last year.

"We'll fight it," Levi Strauss spokeswoman Linda Butler said Friday, adding
that her company stopped manufacturing garments in the islands in January.

"During the time we were there, we rigorously applied our code of conduct
to the contractors that we used. We believe they were in full compliance
with our workplace standards and with applicable laws."

Michael Rubin, an attorney representing the workers, disagreed.

"Our information from talking to workers who manufactured garments for
Levi's is that their rights have been violated repeatedly over the last 10
years," Rubin said.

The factories are located on the western Pacific island of Saipan, part of
the U.S. territory about 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii.

Saipan is a 13-mile-long island in the Northern Marianas, which the Unites
States seized from Japan in World War II. The Northern Marianas have a
commonwealth relationship with Washington, leaving control of immigration
and minimum wages in local hands and exempting Saipan's exports from U.S.
duties.

The lawsuit alleges that garment workers, mostly young women, work 12-hour
days, seven days a week, in unsafe conditions for less than the legal
minimum wage. Lawyers for the workers say they are kept in guarded barracks
enclosed by barbed wire.

The lawsuit filed in January 1999 seeks an undisclosed amount of money for
a factory monitoring program and to compensate the workers.

Trial is set for Feb. 27, 2001.
Melanie Orhant <<morhant@igc.org>>
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