ANALYSIS Lawsuit vs. industry has nothing new to offer • Federal Court must guard welfare of the NMI

Posted on Jan 12 1999

The planned lawsuit against suppliers, retailers and manufacturers by a law firm from Manhattan has nothing new to offer other than regurgitated materials all aimed at bringing back Lazarus from his grave.

It would rise to the level of the economic welfare of the people of the NMI versus the vicious agenda of evil architects who are rumored to be in the pockets of the textile labor unions in the US mainland.

The federal court must cautiously review the irreparable damage which would inflicted against the industry and the welfare of the NMI which now relies on the garment industry for much needed economic activity, therefore, revenue generation amidst the plunge of our major tourism industry. It deserves an instant dismissal just as soon as it is filed. After all, the industry has worked long and hard in recent years in concert with OSHA to improve the living conditions and safety at work venues of its workers. It now boasts “state of the art” operations hardly found elsewhere in garment manufacturing countries.

Furthermore, the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association has signed with the Presidential Task Force’s Apparel Partnership, US Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Group and OSHA to begin compliance training. In seven days, SGMA will begin full implementation of its Code of Conduct. It is an effort that clearly demonstrates that some concrete steps have been undertaken to ensure strict adherence to labor laws that protects the safety, living conditions and rights of employees. This effort involves a process, a process that entails thorough review so that down the stretch there’s self-policing, industry-wide.

While the lawsuit targets suppliers, retailers and manufacturers, the greater issue is the economic welfare of the people of these islands in that amidst the downturn in the local economy, nothing else works except the second (now first) major industry which is garment manufacturing. Now, here are major consideration that one must take into full view as the issue sinks into a media warfare and subsequent confusion. They are:

• The industry makes direct tax contribution of no less than $47 million annually. This direly needed revenue may be gone for good and into the pockets of legal eagles bent to destroying the livelihood of non-garment employees in the industry and public sector as well.

• The Shipping Industry has expanded from bimonthly calls on local commercial port to twice-weekly because of the existence of the Garment Industry here. In the process, ships leave port with finished apparel materials for global markets. This alone grants the NMI a break in prices of basic commodities imported from the US mainland and Asian countries. But this sector may shrink and fade into history if the garment industry is crippled by the planned lawsuit. The Commonwealth Ports Authority would also find it hard paying its debt service in bond funds it has floated.

• Residual or support businesses that have been established would be forced to shut down which include insurance, trucking, fuel, etc. Grocery outlets where the garment industry purchases food and other necessities will definitely see substantial decrease in their sales.

• Privately land being leased by the industry would eventually be discontinued because a frivolous lawsuit has brought this major economic sector to its death bed.

• The 3,000 plus non-garment employees whose jobs were created because of the existence of the industry would also be lost to a frivolous lawsuit. Government retirees who are gainfully employed by the garment industry would lose their jobs in the process.

Any combined plunge in revenue generation by the two major sectors (tourism and apparel manufacturing) would be so devastating as to send many people now gainfully employed into joblessness and instant abject poverty. Imagine 5,000 plus unemployed people roaming the streets as food stamps recipients. Imagine the time frame between abject poverty until business conditions return 20 years later to the current level. These are substantive reasons why the federal court must carefully weigh whose interest, in the final analysis, would be forced into insolvency and abject poverty when the chips are down.

About the only people who would make money from suppliers, retailers, the local garment industry and individual manufacturers are the legal eagles from Manhattan and San Diego. The ultimate losers are the people of these islands who won’t be able to find economic substitutes to replace both the garment and tourism industries.
Think about it. It’s our livelihood which would be placed on the firing lines.

By John S. DelRosario Jr.


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