Friday, May 4, 2001

Government files
claim for 65 abused
Samoan workers

Garment workers also seek wages
earned from minimum-wage
increases last year

Associated Press

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa >> The government has filed a claim for unpaid wages on behalf of Samoan workers. They had been employed at a garment factory, since closed, the owner of which faces federal charges of abusing the workers.

Included in the claim of back wages owed the 65 workers is a minimum-wage increase to $2.60 from $2.55 per hour that went into effect in September, according to Nuuuli Ioane, the plant's former assistant production manager.

Daewoosa Samoa went into receivership Jan. 10 after workers said they were not being paid what they were owed.

The company closed a week later.

The U.S. Department of Labor issued a report in December saying immigrant Vietnamese workers who sewed clothes at the factory were being beaten and starved because they were complaining about living and working conditions.

Neither the Samoan nor the Vietnamese workers received the wage increase in September, although the Samoan workers did receive the raise in late December.

Ioane estimates the total for back wages for the Samoan workers is $30,000-$40,000.

But Henry Kappel, the governor's legal counsel, said on Tuesday that there is still more work needed to determine and finalize the amount due to the workers.

Ioane also said seven of the workers were not paid for the five weeks before the factory closed and were unable to cash their last checks, which they received just before the company went into receivership.

A handful of workers, including Ioane, were not paid overtime, he said.

Daewoosa Samoa's president, Kil-soo Lee, was arrested in March on federal charges of involuntary servitude and forced labor.

The 47-year-old South Korean national is being held without bail pending a trial in U.S. District Court in Honolulu.

The factory, which employed about 300 people, made clothes for J.C. Penney and other retailers. J.C. Penney stopped selling the factory's clothes when it learned of the alleged abuses in December.

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