WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- Thousands of foreign guest workers employed in Jordan to manufacture garments for major U.S. companies are trapped in involuntary servitude, says a new report.
About $1.1 billion worth of garments made in Jordan entered the United States duty-free last year under the terms of a mutual free trade agreement as rampant human rights violations persist, according to the report released Tuesday by the National Labor Committee.
Factory workers for a host U.S. retail giants, including Wal-Mart, Kohl's, Target, Kmart and Victoria's Secret, are routinely forced to work over 100 hours a week, the report alleges. Seven-day work weeks and 20-hour are routine for less than minimum wage.
It is common for workers to be beaten with sticks and belts by factory managers; others have been raped, the report says. Housing conditions are dismal, often without running water and proper bathroom facilities.
Many workers said they feel like slaves and are desperate to escape. Some have reportedly left behind their passports to get away.
Jordan is the fourth country with which Washington has signed a free trade agreement, doing so in December 2000. There are at least 48,000 garment workers in the country and more than 25,000 of them are foreign guest workers. Totals may be much higher since record keeping is poor and dated.
The majority of guest workers come from India, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, while most garment factories exporting duty-free goods to the United States are foreign owned.
U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is slated to introduce the "Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act," which will prohibit the import or sale in the United States of sweatshop goods made under conditions violating core International Labor Organization worker rights standards.