Saturday, May 26, 2001

Samoa sweatshop slapped
with federal fines

Star-Bulletin staff

A garment manufacturer that closed down amid investigations of sweatshop conditions at its American Samoa facility faces a fine of $78,500, a federal agency said yesterday.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Daewoosa Samoa Ltd. was cited for 28 alleged safety and health violations at its Tafuna facility, where about 250 workers toiled before the shop closed in January.

After an investigation of the facility, OSHA assessed Daewoosa Samoa with $30,000 in fines for 11 alleged violations involving sanitation facilities, fire alarms and fire exits. Less serious violations, which did not involve fines, were also issued for failing to provide laundry sinks, hand-wash basins, food cabinets and needle guards on sewing machines.

Daewoosa's owner, Kil-Soo Lee of South Korea, was also cited for unsanitary conditions in the kitchen and eating area, overcrowding in sleeping rooms and failing to control rodent and insect infestation in workers' living quarters.

The owner was arrested by the FBI in March for alleged involuntary servitude and threatening Vietnamese factory workers with serious physical harm or restraint.

A complaint filed earlier by the FBI in Honolulu federal court contends the temperature in the plant reached 104 degrees and workers were not paid for periods of three to six months, among other things.

"The conditions under which these workers work were beyond comprehension," said U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

"The owner of this factory must be held accountable for his inhumane acts and pay the consequences of his actions. The charges of both the FBI and OSHA make clear that justice will be served."

Until its closure, Daewoosa Samoa manufactured men's sportswear for numerous retail outlets in the United States.

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