The Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association yesterday took great exception to a recent media account of the island’s garment industry. An antigarment industry organization joined forces with a network news magazine show to link manufacturers to a broad range of problems on Saipan.
“ABC’s 20/20 is now the ‘great aggregator’. Through insinuation and innuendo, they continue to be shameless in their complicity,” stated SGMA Executive Director Richard A. Pierce.
ABC’s 20/20’s effort was sparked by an undercover investigation by the Washington, D.C.-based Global Survival Network, headed by Steve Galster. Galster posed as Steven Galsten, CEO of the New York Boys and Girls Club.
“Global Survival Network utilizes a public relations firm to carry its word. This public relations firm is the same public relations firm for the San Diego law firm, that has initiated the $1 Billion dollar lawsuit against our manufacturers. Global Survival Network used this public relations firm to provide ABC’s 20/20 with their work for the airing on Saipan. This is complicity,” according to Pierce.
Galster misrepresented himself to people all over Saipan, including manufacturers. He pretended to be a buyer to secure meetings with garment representatives with a secretly hidden camera. He then turned his footage over to ABC’s 20/20. He used his hidden camera footage to create a false impression of the garment industry on Saipan.
The hidden camera footage was used to link problems with prostitution on the island with garment companies and repeated the false claim that the industry mistreats its workers, forcing them to work in poor conditions for low pay.
SGMA said that allegations of forced prostitution are serious and should be fully investigated and prosecuted where abuse is found. The association objected to the manner in which 20/20 presented the problem in its broadcast implying that the industry was somehow involved.
“SGMA is much more concerned with our members’ compliance with local and federal laws than we are with comments made by a member anxious to please a potential customer, who happens to be a set-up guy with a hidden camera.”
“We work hard as an association to ensure safe work places and good working conditions for our highly skilled workers. We do not condone illegalities of any kind. Our policy is to work with all labor and health and safety officials to improve our factories, and to review promptly any allegations of illegal, unsafe or unhealthy conditions against our members. We support and cooperate with all federal or local investigations.”
SGMA has instituted a Code of Conduct, modeled after the Apparel Industry Partnership, as part of an effort to improve working conditions. It continues discussions with US Labor Wage & Hour and OSHA Divisions, EEOC and others to make this Code as effective as possible, including external and independent monitoring.
“SGMA believes these actions are responsible. Our Code runs parallel to local and federal laws, and this will be sustained. We believe strongly in self-policing and cooperating with authorities. The real shame of Saipan was 20/20’s refusal to mention a single word of our comments or show the true SGMA story,” he said