Odds are that you haven’t heard the name Patrick Pizzella before, but you probably should get to know it. Pizzella is President Donald Trump’s nominee for deputy labor secretary, which would make him the second most important man in the Department of Labor.
That’s an awfully powerful position for a man who formerly lobbied to maintain sweatshop labor on US territories. Mother Jones did a deep dive into Pizzella’s past, and what the publication found is hardly befitting of a man tasked with looking out for workers’ rights.
In the late ’90s, Pizzella worked for Jack Abramoff. Odds are that you have heard Abramoff’s name, because he subsequently and famously went to prison for four years for corruption and bribery; 21 of Abramoff’s associates were also convicted on similar charges.
Pizzella’s job under Abramoff was to lobby American politicians to keep standard labor laws away from the North Mariana Islands. When this island cluster bargained to become a commonwealth of the United States back in 1975, it secured itself the right to set its own minimum wage and establish its own immigration policy.
These permissions granted by the US became seriously problematic. Local businesses began inviting foreigners to come to the North Mariana Islands on work visas and paid these desperate people terrible rates. Employees would rack up debt to their bosses and be forced to stay to pay it off in a system that was tantamount to indentured servitude.
On top of that, workers were regularly beaten, and there were even reports of female employees being forced to have abortions so that they could keep working uninterrupted. Some slept in prison-like conditions with a dozen roommates and were forced to sign contracts that they wouldn’t practice religion or try to form a union. Many were stiffed on overtime …read more