The Galveston Daily News reports on more Tom DeLay-related unpleasantness. Back in the 1990s, Saipan, capital of the Northern Marianas Islands, a U.S. territory, was the site of quite a racket for the garment industry. Companies could import workers and raw materials to Saipan, which lacked a minimum wage, then tag the resulting products as "Made in the U.S.A." Predictably, all sorts of abuses were documented: employees were locked into factories and forced to work 14-hour days, then locked into barracks during their "off" time. Recruiters induced Asian women to Saipan with promises of restaurant work, then forced them into prostitution. Women were fired for being pregnant, and sometimes resorted to dangerous and illegal abortions to keep their jobs. Republican Senator Frank Murkowski was pushing legislation to reform these conditions, but the garment companies and the Saipan government had some allies on Capitol Hill - beginning with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a "close associate" of our friend Tom DeLay.
Abramoff, who more recently has been investigated for defrauding Indian tribes of $32 million, was paid more millions to try to keep Congress from extending the federal mimimum wage to Saipan. And Abramoff seems to have convinced Tom DeLay to pitch in and oppose his fellow Republican Murkowski. According to the Daily News, DeLay now claims he "found no victims of sweatshops, sex slavery, or forced abortions" on Saipan in the mid-nineties.
But now Carmencita Abad, who worked on Saipan at the time, has called him out. She told the Daily News:
My answer is, Mr. DeLay, I am that person. I am an example of an individual who can prove that the accounts of sweatshop labor and forced prostitution are not just allegations but true accounts of working conditions in the Marianas Islands when Mr. DeLay traveled there and turned a blind eye to our misery.
I used to live in a squalid barracks - thin roofs, thin walls, concrete floors and people slept in bunk beds with 14 people sharing one restroom - no hot water, no air conditioning.
Women were fired for being pregnant. And to keep her job, any pregnant woman would either go to an illegal abortionist or try to induce miscarriage by drinking herbal potions or falling down on purpose. Women who are fired from work have no way to support themselves aside from the sex trade. There's no way to feed yourself aside from that.
Abad spoke at a press conference outside a business luncheon held in DeLay's honor, largely because last month DeLay called charges such as hers "incredible lies." Inside, DeLay, when asked about Saipan, still insisted that "the workers there were very well treated. There may have existed some problems in certain instances, but not when I was there."