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The Long Nightmare is Almost Over

March 17, 2001  |  Share

Click here to view Daewoosa, American Samoa campaign page.

Good news. The long nightmare for the Vietnamese workers in American Samoa is almost over.

For nearly two years more than 250 Vietnamese workers--90% of them women--have been held as indentured servants in a Korean-owned factory in the U.S. territory of American Samoa where they sewed clothing for Wal-Mart, Target, J.C. Penney and Sears--clothing, carrying the label "Made in the U.S.A." The women were beaten, cheated on well over one million dollars in back wages, housed in overcrowded, rat-infested dorms, starved, threatened with deportation and imprisonment and sexually harassed.

For this entire period, the Daewoosa factory violated these workers' rights with complete impunity.

Those days are over. Two FBI agents are on the island of American Samoa now along with an officer of the U.S. Justice Department. They are investigating the illegal trafficking of worker, corruption, and a money laundering scheme which siphoned money out of the factory leaving Daewoosa bankrupt and the workers penniless.

J.C. Penney has agreed to pay all back wages owed to the workers who sewed garments for Penney. Congressman George Miller met with Labor Secretary on Monday, March 11 to discuss the violations at Daewoosa. Even the Vietnamese government, which ran the recruitment agencies that sent the women to American Samoa, has now significantly changed its attitude, saying that Vietnam will pay all transportation costs to return the workers home and will guarantee their safety.

The Governor of American Samoa, who called the NLC report "Bull," has been conspicuously quiet of late. Still remaining to be done: five workers who are seeking asylum need help, and Wal-Mart, Sears and Target have yet to follow J.C. Penney's lead in paying back wages. Still, the worst part of the nightmare is over.

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