Behind the Labels is a very impressive production of investigative reporting. It exposes the unknown secrets of labor and immigration cruelties in a region known as Saipan. Saipan was a United States Commonwealth region that was cut out from the Northern Mariana Islands.
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The film chronicles the tale of unchecked corporate voracity and the insensitive management of the garment employees who had been sourced from the Asian continent to work in Saipan’s sweatshop establishments.
Most of these workers who came from China and Philippines parted with so much cash to get an opportunity to work in the land of promises, America. They did not know that they would be forced to serve in an island far away and denied the little dignity they deserved as well as the basic rights and privileges in life.
There are several thematic issues that arise out of this movie. The most obvious is globalization and the sexual division of labor. As is evident in the movie, most people are driven out of their geographical origins to far lands in search of gainful employment.
People are ready to transverse geographical boundaries for economic purposes. Secondly, it is apparent that women are the tools of labor in garment factories in Saipan. Consequently, they are the ones that bear the heaviest burden of mistreatment under the manipulative labor practices in Saipan.
The garment factories used various techniques to control women’s bodies as well as sexuality. For instance, they were told that they would be deported if at all they did, not abide by what they were ordered to do by the overseers. For those women who would by any chance get pregnant, no pay would be given to them for the entire period that they were expectant regardless of the services offered.
Surprisingly though, they were required to be always present at the workplace. This was a tactic to dissuade women from getting pregnant and only concentrate on the business of the factories. The women also experienced piecework measures which were effected under very bad working scenarios.
The garment workers in Saipan had to offer their services at the factories but still play their roles as mothers. For many of them, they would juggle between motherhood and work. They would complete their chores at home early enough before reporting at the factories and work hard to complete their quotas early enough so that they would return home. Breastfeeding mothers would find some little time to feed their little ones and still work.
Debt bondage is, indeed, a new form of slavery. Offering one’s service in exchange for a loan offered is wrong since it could lead to mistreatments. Historically, debt bondage elongates the suffering of many other generations for an act that new generations know little about. Any practice concerning debt bondage that is present must be condemned with the toughest terms possible as it is slavery in reality.
Working in Saipan is not an opportunity for the women working there. On the contrary, it is a hell of exploitation. In a modern economy regulated by sound labor laws, such mistreatment of human beings should not be tolerated. It is a pity that the women in Saipan had to endure a lot of hardship just to get a single day’s income. This film indeed exposes a grim reality of the injustices that occurred in Saipan owing to globalization.