June 13, 2006 – Last week’s departure of former GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay may be good news for workers in sweatshops in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.
Democratic Congressman George Miller (D-CA) has reintroduced legislation to extend U.S. labor laws to the Commonwealth. For years, DeLay personally blocked any effort to close legal loopholes that allow Chinese owners to operate sweatshop garment factories in the tiny Pacific island nation and put the “Made in USA” label on goods produced there. Even though news reports showed Chinese immigrant workers were subjected to forced abortions and horrid working conditions, DeLay, in concert with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who worked for the Commonwealth, derailed reform efforts that had majority support in Congress.
“Given the chance to do it all again, there’s only one thing I’d change. I’d fight even harder,” DeLay said in a bitter farewell speech to Congress last week. DeLay turned his House Leadership post into an influence peddling machine unrivaled in House history. DeLay called Jack Abramoff “one of my closest and dearest friends.” Delay’s former communications director Michael Scanlon plead guilty to bribery charges stemming from his work with Abramoff. Tony Rudy admitted to taking bribes while working as DeLay’s chief of staff. Edwin Buckham, a former DeLay chief of staff, is identified in court papers as “Lobbyist B” for steering money to Rudy and putting DeLay’s wife on his payroll. And Susan Hirschmann, another DeLay chief of staff, topped a list of congressional staffers accepting free trips, racking up $84,000-worth in 26 months.