Modern slavery in the land of the free

Posted on Jan 13 1999

It is inconceivable how textile labor union-backed Democrats in the US House of Representatives have pushed for a federal takeover of labor and immigration here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s nothing more than “pay-back” time or they’d cough their way out of their coveted seat.

In concert with the US Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, they’ve finally convinced a certain Manhattan law firm to take its version of harassment of suppliers, retailers and manufacturers to court.

In this endless agenda to permanently ruin the last major industry here, it (Stayman, law firm, Miller and cabal) have opted to look the other way on foreign workers who have been treated as indentured slaves by their employers.

For instance, I was handed a recent article published in the International Herald Tribune written by William Branigin which related how an illiterate Ethiopian woman was brought to the US eight years ago by a staff member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to work as a maid in his apartment in Silver Springs, Maryland.

“Her employer, also from Ethiopia, promised in a contract to Miss Yeshehareg Teferra to pay her $235 a week, provide medical care and abide by US labor laws. “Instead, Miss Teferra says, she received a total of $1,060 for more than eight years of work averaging about 90 hours a week–pay that came to less than three cents an hour. She says she was never given a day off, was ordered not to talk to people outside the family and was slapped and choked when she complained.” She finally ran away from her employer last May and was taken by another Ethiopian family.

The employer has argued that Miss Teferra “is owed nothing because she stayed as a ‘guest’ in their home after he left IMF. She fired right back “I was not their guest…I was not even their employee. I was their slave”. She’s being assisted by a Washington attorney who volunteered to help her.

Meanwhile, thousands of domestic servants are being brought into the US from impoverished countries and then severely exploited by foreign employers, many of whom work for embassies and international organizations in the Washington area, according to the Branigin report. Some have fled their employers and have filed lawsuits for back wages and damages.

Time Magazine also ran an expose` of employee abuses in over 600 sweatshops between New York and California. This doesn’t include child slavery of migrant workers who head to farm fields at dawn while their peers march to school. Nor does it include the outright abuse of Japanese Americans who were placed on internment camps before the war some of whom have yet to be paid for the loss of their properties. How about the so-called Tuskegee Experiment of African Americans who were injected with syphilis to see the effects of this disease? Finally, the nation-wide effort on National Conversation hasn’t gotten anywhere in the discussion and resolution of racial discrimination of Americans of color since the founding of our country more than 200 years ago. The problem persists.

And OIA and the Manhattan legal firm seem oblivious to all these as to even overlook the fact that their version of virtual slavery pales ours which we must have learned from guess who–discrimination in the US which was first introduced here during the TTG days when Interior imposed a three-tiered minimum wage: One for American expatriates at $1 an hour, $.33 for Micronesians and less for all others. A friend once quizzed “Where’s justice?” I honestly ask the same query and you should too.

Finally, if OIA’s sincere goal is to end worker abuses, then it would be fully cognizant of the efforts of the local garment industry to police itself and the contract signed with pertinent federal agencies to begin refining work conditions and safety of employees. But again it chooses to overlook this effort which goes to illustrate once and for all that it isn’t problem solving in partnership that it seeks of the NMI, but a total agenda simply to ruin one of two major industries here in favor of the interest of textile labor union in the US mainland. I suppose this willful stampede of minority interest in the greater scheme of things is the very forte of the Clinton Administration being carried out by his lieutenants. Is this the so-called “American Dream?”–killing the livelihood of American minorities especially those outside mainstream America?

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