NEW YORK — Bringing a conclusion to a lengthy legal battle, a suit alleging that Levi Strauss & Co. had bought garments from sweatshops on the Pacific island of Saipan has been dismissed.
Last year, 27 other U.S. companies that had been named in the suit, filed at a federal court in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, agreed to a $20 million settlement deal.
“We have said all along that when we were sourcing in the Saipan we conducted our business in a responsible manner,” said a spokesman for San Francisco-based Levi’s. “The allegations against the company were not true and the dismissal of this case confirms that.”
The suit was filed in 1999 against companies including Gap Inc., Target Corp. and J.C. Penney Co. Levi’s was added to the suit in March 2000, after it had ceased sourcing from Saipan, the Levi’s spokesman said.
Levi’s has had a vendor code of conduct in place since 1991 and the spokesman said the contractors with which Levi’s had done business in Saipan had complied with the code.
The suit alleged that about 30,000 workers toiled in Saipan factories from 1989 through May 2002 in conditions that amounted to indentured servitude. The class action suits threw their cause into the public eye and caused many U.S. apparel brands to rethink working on the island.
Michael Rubin, a partner at Altshuler Berzon Nussbaum Rubin & Demain in San Francisco, said the plaintiffs had decided to drop the suit, since the earlier settlements — which also established a system of labor monitoring on the island — had achieved the results they were seeking.
“It didn’t seem worthwhile, since we got what we were seeking in the first place,” he said. “They’ve been out of Saipan for years.”
He noted that the dismissal of the class action suit was made “without prejudice,” which means that any individual worker who wanted to sue on her or his own would retain the right to do so.
The parties asked last month that the suit be dismissed and the dismissal order took effect last week.