Report: Factory Workers Beaten

Tuesday, February 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Factory workers in American Samoa who made clothes for J.C. Penney Co. and other retailers were beaten, poorly fed, underpaid and spied on while they showered, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The newspaper, citing a Labor Department report dated Dec. 14, said the 300 workers at the plant were fed meager rations of rice, chicken broth and cabbage and resembled ``walking skeletons.'' The plant closed in January.

The Times said it obtained the report from an anti-sweatshop activist working to expose poor conditions at overseas factories and pressure retailers to improve conditions at plants that manufacture goods for them.

J.C. Penney stopped selling the factory's clothes when it learned of the problems in December. It also canceled contracts with a supplier who sourced goods there, a company spokesman told the newspaper.

The factory, owned by Korean manufacturer Daewoosa, employed mainly Vietnamese women flown to the U.S. Pacific territory and paid below the Samoan minimum wage of $2.60 an hour, the Labor report said. Most federal labor standards are supposed to apply in U.S. territories.

The women lived 36 to a room, and were slapped or kicked if they were late for work. They were also watched while they bathed, the report said. One federal investigator likened the factory compound to a prison.

The employees are suing Daewoosa, alleging their wages were withheld and they were charged up to $200 — almost half their salary — for accommodation that had been promised for free.

Daewoosa lawyers would not comment while the case was before the courts.