Anyone heard of Saipan? Do you know where it is?
There is is! It’s a minuscule island off the coast of the Philippines/Japan that is actually a US commonwealth. Now name some companies that everyone in America knows of. Target, WalMart, Gap, etc. Chances are, they use a strategic globalized strategy. They outsource their labor to underdeveloped countries because of the low costs and essentially no labor standards. Corporate businesses exploit the weak regulations, violating human and labor rights on a daily basis. The American territory actually has exemptions from the American federal duties, allowing them to abuse labor and wage regulations. Women in particular are taken advantage of, with the corporate bosses withholding pay for months at a time. Just like in any sweatshop, the workers are subject to horrible working conditions—an unsanitary environment, forced overtime, minimal pay, you name it.
Saipan’s situation shows how globalization is affecting society in a negative way, and workers are being exploited and taken advantage of so that companies can earn a bigger profit. How have we let situations like this continue to go on? It’s ironic almost to think that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, but in a US territory, we are almost enslaving their workers. How did this happen? Saipan is also by no means the only country that exploits its workers, but it shocks me that this is able to happen when Saipan is a US commonwealth. One would think that because it is an American territory it would be held to American working standards. Apparently this is not the case since the factories in Saipan are “exempt” from these duties.
Luckily there were efforts to put a stop to the working conditions in Saipan. After a three-year struggle between advocates for sweatshop workers and large corporate apparel companies, 26 major retailers settled a lawsuit targeting Saipan’s working conditions. According to Global Exchange, 19 of the 26 companies motioned to settle the lawsuit initially, but some companies simply refused, dragging the process out a few more years. Instead of being socially responsible and changing the working conditions of their workers, they preferred to capitalize on the lack of working standards just so that there could be lower labor costs. The suit comprises of $20 million that will be paid to workers in back wages, and the companies have also agreed to implement a Code of Conduct, Independent Monitoring, Worker’s Compensation and Repatriation. It seems that globalization may have led to corporations exploiting and capitalizing on their workers, but at least there are efforts to try to un-do the effects that it has caused.