B   M   W   E
Help Congress Stop The Saipan Scam!

You Can Make A Difference

By Charlie Mercer

President, Union Label & Service Trades Dept., AFL-CIO

Each of us can help put an end to the truly outrageous scandal that has become known far and wide as the Saipan Scam.

The scam: More than $1 billion a year in clothing is shipped into the U.S. from Saipan, in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Most of it is made of foreign-made cloth in foreign-owned factories by thousands of indentured foreign workers, many, if not most, of them from China. And thanks to loopholes in current U.S. law, most of the clothing carries the "Made in USA" label, and enters the U.S. duty free, at a cost to taxpayers estimated at $200 million a year.

That means in effect that tens of thousands of Chinese-made garments are sold duty free in the U.S. under the highly valued "Made in USA" label.

This and more has been reported time and again in TV-magazine broadcasts, most notably ABC-TV's "20/20," national magazines, including Time and the Readers Digest, daily newspapers the length and breadth of the U.S., and the labor press.

As I said, each of us--individually and collectively--can help put an end to the Saipan Scam. Individually and collectively we can make a difference, and we can do it right now!

All it takes is a letter, a postcard, a telephone call or an e-mail message to the member of the U.S. House of Representatives from your district and to both U.S. Senate members from your state.

Urge them to support and co-sponsor the bills named the "Made in USA Label Defense Act of 1999," introduced and supported in both the Senate and the House by prominent members of both major political parties. The Senate bill is S.922; in the House it's H.R. 1621. As this was written there were a total of 36 sponsors from both parties in the House; five in the Senate.

The bills have the strong support of labor, business and consumer groups who have come together as the "Take Pride in America Coalition." The Coalition was formed early this year through efforts spearheaded by the Union Labor & Service Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

You can identify and contact your U.S. Representative and Senators through the Union Label Department's page on the internet: www.unionlabel.org (click on "Made in USA Labels"). You also can link up there to the site maintained by the "Take Pride America Coalition:" www.takepride.org. Printed information about the campaign also is available from the UL&STD at 815 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20006. (Phone: 202-638-2131; Fax: 202-638-1602.)

There are powerful vested interests working hard to convince Congress to leave things as they are--to permit them to continue the Saipan Scam.

But remember, it was just a couple of years ago, in 1997, that the Federal Trade Commission withdrew its proposal to weaken the standards for use of the "Made in USA" label. Opposition to the proposal was widely considered a lost cause--until union members, consumers and others rallied to the cause with a letter and postcard campaign directed at the members of Congress.

We sincerely believe that every member of the Congress should be a co-sponsor and supporter of the bills to end the Saipan Scam and that the majority of them will be if enough of the voters in their states and districts let them know that they should.

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