Sweat suit gets short shrift

Surprisingly, Disney was not among 18 companies sued last week in a series of $1 billion racketeering suits charging sweatshop abuses. The suit claims retailers including The Gap, The Limited, Sears and Tommy Hilfiger engaged in a conspiracy with Saipan-based sweatshop owners to use indentured servants to produce clothes that were then labeled "Made in USA." Saipan is part of the Northern Mariana Islands, which is a Commonwealth of the United States. The suits marked the first time U.S. companies have been sued under federal racketeering laws for mistreatment of about 75,000 past and present workers employed by foreign-owned companies on U.S. soil, plaintiff's attorney William Lerach told a news conference.

Several of the companies denied wrongdoing and pointed to policies against sweatshop labor. These corporate-monitored programs typically overlook potential abuses, labor activists have said. Workers at the news conference where the suit was announced said they had endured forced abortions and 12-hour days at $3 an hour to pay back thousands in job placement fees.

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