United Nations

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Postby Shapley » Tue May 09, 2006 4:33 pm

Most of the Islands in the South Pacific survive on subsistence farming and tourism. Saipan has found an opportunity to improve its lot by taking advantage of its relationship with the US government and introducing manufacturing jobs to a part of the world where they are quite rare. However, they have to remain competitive with the rest of the Pacific Rim, and that is no easy task. This leaves them walking a tightrope between producing manufactured goods that are competitive in the market and paying decent wages. It is only by virtue of the lack of tariffs on the goods they produce that they can pay $3/hr and remain competitive with goods produced at a fraction of that amount.

While the good-hearted efforts of some in Congress may result in pay raises if effective, they will most likely result in a loss of market for the products produced, and thus a loss of many of the jobs the measures were meant to improve.

As in other developing nations, it is only through strong economic performance that conditions can begin to improve. Saipan is attempting to improve its financial situation through manufacturing. As the tiny island's GDP improves, it will be able to combat the problems that plague it. I am afraid that efforts to help the workers who are preyed upon by unscrupulous recruiters will backfire, causing market loss, job loss, and a slip backwards in real income growth in Saipan.

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Postby Selma in Sandy Eggo » Tue May 09, 2006 5:21 pm

It appears that the Saipanese people are not the ones with the jobs in the articles - they are "guest" workers from the PI and China. As the industry collapses, they will probably be, in large part, stranded in the Marianas with neither income nor local families. The profits from these factories appear to have all been pocketed by the factory owners, the labor importers, and assorted politicians.

The terms of the Marianas protectorate status would seem to need revisiting. There are a few deficiencies that have come to light.
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Postby Haggis@wk » Tue May 09, 2006 5:32 pm

Did we get Saipan as a result from WWII from the Japanese? Who "owned" the Islands before the Japanese showed up??? That'll solve the problem, give 'em back to whoever had to put up with them before.

Oh! Wait! better idea.....Liberate the whole damn island chain! How long do you think the garment companies would stay if they were no longer able to get "Made in USA" labels and no tarriffs. But hey! It wouldn't be our problem then

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The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Alexis De Tocqueville 1835
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Postby OperaTenor » Wed May 10, 2006 2:21 am

The government is in fact directly tied to aiding and abetting the abuses in Saipan.

Google "Tom Delay" and "Saipan". It's all there.

Better yet, read the article from Ms. Nicole linked.
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Postby Nicole Marie » Wed May 10, 2006 7:29 am

Haggis-

The US government has not closed loop holes in the laws that allow these islands to operate in this manner. For what I have read Tom DeLay was a big advocate of not closing the loop holes so US companies could profit at the expense of those trapped in the sweatshops. I would hope our US officials would see the horrible conditions our laws developed for these women and do something to stop it. We shall see. So Haggis, I would have to say our US government is just at fault as the gangsters involved.
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Postby Shapley » Wed May 10, 2006 8:15 am

Nicole and OT:

They're not 'loopholes' in the law, they are the terms that were set at time the Northern Marianas became allied with the United States government. They were intended to allow Saipan to remain competitive with other Pacific Rim countries in the manufacturing market while providing some level of protection to the workers.

You may not agree with Tom Delay's position on it, which is that the problems can be fixed without destroying Saipan's competitiveness, but that is not the same as 'aiding and abetting' the abuses. The government of Saipan is not in favour of the changes, and I don't think it is proper to institute them without approval of local government. It is possible to effect reform without drastic measures implemented by a goverment half way around the globe from the problem. Mr. Delay has been to Saipan, has anyone of you read what he has to say on the matter, other than excerpts posted by those opposed to him? From all that I can read, Congressman Miller, who is leading the charge for reform, has never made a trip to the island.

Haggis,

The Northern Marianas were a U.N. protectorate after the war, apparently under United States control. In 1975 they decided to become a United States territory, as was pointed out earlier in the thread.

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Postby Shapley » Wed May 10, 2006 8:58 am

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Postby Selma in Sandy Eggo » Wed May 10, 2006 10:51 am

The terms of the Marianas protectorate referendum, which was voted on by the citizens of the islands specifically exempted the Marianas Protectorate from the immigration and minimum wage laws and regulations of the US government. Using 20/20 hindsight, it's pretty clear that this was a bad idea for the workers and the islands. It's also pretty clear that there's been some serious lobbying, bribery, and political armtwisting (in both Saipan and Washington) to keep these exemptions in force.

The protectorate treaty needs revising. I don't know what we can do about the politicians involved, unless their districts quit electing them to Congress and the Saipan government, but if the immigration laws were in force we could do something about the factory owners. If the FLSA and mainland minimum wage laws were in force in these islands, there'd be an immediate change in a whole bunch of things. If US laws against Trafficing In Persons (yes, that's what the training course I had to take called it) were applied, the whole trade would be out of business overnight.

How about we ask the ILGWU to send in some organizers, while we're at it. And a repatriation team for the guest labor force. And a deterrency force to take care of the labor recruiter/importer con artists. It won't be enough to simply fix the laws that allow the present abuses - unless the factory worker population is provided with some better options, we'll find that Saipan is in competition with Thailand and Cambodia for the sex tourist trade. Yecch.

We don't need to pass new laws, just apply the ones we have now to the Marianas. This is a problem of politics and law enforcement. But first we have to get the law de-exempted.
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Postby Shapley » Wed May 10, 2006 11:18 am

If I understand Rep. Miller's argument: If we tighten the immigration laws, the flood of people flocking to the island willing to work for lower wages and a better lifestyle will stop, as it has here in America. Also, by raising the minimum wage to the same as it is here in America, the garment manufacturing industry will flourish as it does here in America, and the women will be able to pay off the human trafficers quicker, without selling their bodies to the asian tourists who flock there for that sort of thing. Then they'll all be drinkin' that free bubble-ub, and eatin' that rainbow stew.

The point is, the Pacific Islands do not have thriving economies. Most rely on subsistence farming and tourism (yes, unfortunately that includes sex tourism). Saipan has sought to change that by introducing manufacturing to an area where it actually quite rare. In order to do so, it felt that, while they can offer better wages than other Pacific rim nations, they cannot compete by offering US wages and benefits mandated, so they requested and received the exemptions to both wage and immigration laws. The picture may have changed since 1975, and perhaps it is time to revisit those issues, but it should be done with the agreement and support of the local government, and not as a result of lobbying by labour unions and civil rights workers half way around the globe.

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Postby Haggis@wk » Fri Jan 12, 2007 10:27 am

Nicole Marie wrote:Actually Haggis... the Northern Mariana Islands issue involving Abramoff and DeLay forces thousand of Asian women into sweatshops by day and the sex industry by night. These women are also forced into abortions on this island that is a US territory. So when OT says the glass house issue, we should look at what our US reps were doing to Asian women.

"Three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines, with a population of just over 80,000, these U.S. territories acquired after World War II are the central locale of a "dirty drama of bondage" that enmeshes disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, House leader Tom Delay. That's because the Marianas (and particularly the main island, Saipan) are also the site of America's most shoddy labor practices. Human "brokers" bring thousands there to work as sex slaves and in cramped sweatshop garment factories where clothes (complete with "Made in the U.S.A." tag) have been produced for all the major brands: Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, The Limited, J.C. Penney, and Wal-Mart. The workers are "paid barely half the U.S. minimum hourly wage," and are "forced to live behind barbed wire in squalid shacks minus plumbing, work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, without any of the legal protections U.S. workers are guaranteed."


Ms Magazine did a great undercover on this. Please read this article, it highlights the issues best: http://www.highbeam.com/library/docfree ... emium=BOTH

Letters have also been posted on the House website about this: http://www.house.gov/georgemiller/marianasupdate.html



GOP hits Pelosi's 'hypocrisy' on wage bill


” On Wednesday, the House voted to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour.

The bill also extends for the first time the federal minimum wage to the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands. However, it exempts American Samoa, another Pacific island territory that would become the only U.S. territory not subject to federal minimum-wage laws.

One of the biggest opponents of the federal minimum wage in Samoa is StarKist Tuna, which owns one of the two packing plants that together employ more than 5,000 Samoans, or nearly 75 percent of the island's work force. StarKist's parent company, Del Monte Corp., has headquarters in San Francisco, which is represented by Mrs. Pelosi.”


Well, I suppose this is an example of the glass being half full. I will remain interested in what the contrast will be between the rest of the Northern Marianas and Somoa.

Will the poor Somoans keep their "sweat shop" jobs? Will the new minimum wages outweigh the value of the "Made in America" label that the Mariana manufacturers are entitled to?

For right or wrong, if the wages in the Marianas are viewed as artificially high I suspect that a number of the currently employed will become unemployed, all in the name of Democratic "feel good" legislation
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Alexis De Tocqueville 1835
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Postby piqaboo » Fri Jan 12, 2007 11:41 am

Shapley wrote:The government ..... is not in favour of the changes, and I don't think it is proper to institute them without approval of local government. It is possible to effect reform without drastic measures implemented by a goverment half way around the globe from the problem.


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Postby jamiebk » Fri Jan 12, 2007 11:54 am

Todays "quote" from my MNS homepage:

"Every people should be left free to determine its own policy, its own way of development, unhindered, unthreatened, unafraid, the little along with the great and powerful… These are American principles."

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Re: United Nations

Postby Shapley » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:55 am

Quod scripsi, scripsi.
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