When I was doing the book proposal for my book, I was hunting around for other cases of modern slavery so I would go to Google or LexisNexis and I’d type in, “modern”, “slavery”, “America”, “contemporary” and bing! Bing! Bing! This place would come up called Saipan, which I’d never heard of.
It’s an island three and half hours from Japan that we took from the Japanese after World War II; this place is part of America and it’s a gazillion miles away from the mainland. To enable the people on Saipan to develop themselves and build hospitals and schools, and since they have a very small, fairly undeveloped population, the US allowed them to bring in guest workers from Asia.
This very quickly turned into a nightmare with many Chinese and Korean garment factories going to the island to exploit the benefits of cheap labor on US soil. Very quickly the local population became dependent on having guest workers. About 75 percent of the island’s population are foreign class B citizens with no rights.
I went there and lived there for three years, on and off, studying the way free people react to unfree people and it’s not pretty. After studying how the iniquity degrades life so completely there, you realize is that there are still millions and billions of people in the world who are so poor that even that’s a step up for them.
Li Lan was a prostitute I met who had been a garment worker. She didn’t like working for $3.05 an hour and didn’t like being looked down upon. She tells about freedom and going to a disco and it’s this horrible, lame disco but to her, coming from a village in China, this is like going to Paris in the 1920s for F. Scott Fitzgerald. Listening to a Filipino cover band and being a prostitute. At the end, when she gets caught (I was with her the night she was being deported) she just sighed and she said, “ugh, I love Saipan. Maybe I’ll come back here some day.”
My point is that there are billions of Chinese and Indian workers who are all too willing to come here and be mistreated. The argument that people always make in all of these cases is, “well, they’re making more money than they’re making at home!” They use that to justify not paying according to American law.
But there’s this thing called the race to the bottom, which is wages worldwide going down and down and down and down. If you wanna follow it to a logical end, where it all goes back to is slavery. So if we wanna have this mentality that we have a right to hire anyone who is willing to be mistreated, this is where it’s going, dudes, go for it.
From an interview with Faith Salie on Fair Game.