Proposed Pittsburgh Pirates anti-sweatshop resolution
Pittsburgh City Council Proclamation, July 2006
SweatFree Communities' letter to Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club
Worker Rights Consortium's letter to Pittsburgh Pirates
Response to Major League Baseball
July 5, 2006
Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club
PNC Park at North Shore
115 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Dear Mr. McClatchy,
I am writing to express support for the partnership between the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball club and the Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance (PASCA) to promote human rights of workers producing apparel and other merchandise bearing the Pittsburgh Pirates logo. Baseball fans and human rights supporters worldwide will consider this partnership a model of humanitarian work in the spirit of Roberto Clemente. Just as Clemente has gone down in history as one of the greatest athletes and humanitarians of all time, the Pittsburgh Pirates can now build on its proud tradition of charitable work and community development, setting the standard for Major League Baseball and, indeed, all professional sports.
SweatFree Communities supports and coordinates a national network of local grassroots campaigns seeking to convince public, religious, and private institutions to adopt sweatshop-free purchasing and licensing policies in order to generate significant market demand for products made in humane conditions by workers who are paid living wages. Sweatfree campaigns, such as PASCA, bring together broad and diverse community coalitions committed to local action for human rights in workplaces in the United States and abroad.
As large consumers, governments, schools, and sports teams can compel companies that benefit from public or private contracts to adhere to basic labor standards. Over 70 school districts, cities, counties, and states in the United States have adopted sweatfree procurement policies, including the City of Pittsburgh and the State of Pennsylvania. Over 150 colleges and universities have committed to independent monitoring of their licensees’ supplier factories, including Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Pirates can now set the standard for the sports world.
Working Conditions in the Global Apparel Industry
Human rights abuse in the global apparel industry is not an aberration, but the logical result of trade rules and industry relations that reward sweatshop exploitation, and penalize decency and fairness in the workplace. Improving sweatshop working conditions is not a matter of detecting and discarding the occasional “bad apple” in an otherwise sound industry, but helping to change the rules for the industry by using our influence as large consumers.
Between 1995 and 2001 the U.S. Department of Labor repeatedly surveyed cutting and sewing shops in the major United States apparel centers: New York, northern New Jersey, and Los Angeles in particular. Each of these surveys found that 50- 60% of the shops failed to pay either the minimum wage, or overtime, or both.(1) In 1996 California state labor investigators found that 72% of the garment firms in Southern California had serious health or safety violations as well. The data indicate that sweatshop conditions are “normal” at the heart of the United States apparel industry.
Most of the clothing that enters the world export stream comes from places where labor standards are below international norms and material conditions are also substandard.(2) China holds a 27% share of all imported garments.(3) There, workers have no rights of free association; minimum wage laws are regularly violated in export factories; work weeks of 70 hours and more are common. In Bangladesh, among the top five apparel exporters to the United States, safety conditions are so bad catastrophic factory fires, reminiscent of the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire, have killed hundreds of workers in three separate incidents in just one deadly week in February, 2006.(4) Bangladeshi workers earn 10-14 cents/hour and work 74 and more hours per week.(5) In El Salvador workers’ human rights are regularly violated. According to Human Rights Watch, “Because labor laws are weak and government enforcement is often begrudging or non-existent, employers who flout the law have little to worry that they will suffer significant consequences.”(6) Similar authoritative studies document widespread human rights abuses in the global apparel in many other world regions. Even companies themselves have begun documenting chronic human rights violations in most of their factory base, including physical and verbal abuse, restricted access to toilets and drinking water, forced overtime, and below legal minimum wages.(7)
What Can the Pittsburgh Pirates Do?
The first step is to recognize the power and responsibility we have as large consumers and licensers. While factories themselves certainly are responsible for imposing sweatshop conditions on their workers, they are locked in a race to the bottom to attract orders from large customers who usually pay prices so low and demand production so swift that factories have no choice but to sweat their profits from the workers through low wages and forced overtime. A plant manager in Nicaragua recently told us that it was hard to keep a factory open even in Nicaragua, which has the lowest wages in Central America, because factories in China were producing cheaper goods. He said: “Sooner or later someone is going to have to put a stop to this, and that someone is going to have to be at the purchasing end.”
As one of the largest producers of licensed logo apparel in the world, Major League Baseball can make a decisive difference in the lives of thousands of workers worldwide, including workers in the United States. The Pittsburgh Pirates can spark this change by adopting the “We are a Global Family” Anti-Sweatshop Declaration proposed by PASCA and SweatFree Communities. This declaration simply says that all workers who make Pittsburgh Pirates logo apparel and other merchandise must be treated with fairness and dignity, and that Major League Baseball should join a growing family of cities, states, and universities in developing sweatfree procurement and licensing standards.
Despite pervasive and systemic human rights violations in the global apparel industry, there are decent workplaces that produce for Major League Baseball, places where workers receive fair compensation for dignified work and have a voice in workplace policies. Two examples are Majestic Athletic in Bangor, Pennsylvania, and New Era Cap Factory in Derby, New York. Sweatfree procurement and licensing standards in baseball would mean more orders and more demand for factories such as these, and more good manufacturing jobs in the United States and around the world, benefiting all of us.
Along with PASCA, we urge the Pittsburgh Pirates to take advantage of the 2006 All Star Game to publicly announce your support for the human rights of sweatshop workers whether in the United States or elsewhere.
SweatFree Communities will be happy to support PASCA’s and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ partnership for workers’ human rights in any way we can. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.
Thank you for your commitment to ending sweatshop abuses.
Bjorn Skorpen Claeson
Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance
(1) U.S. Department of Labor. 1996. Office of Public Affairs Press Release" Industry Monitoring Credited For Improved Garment Industry Compliance With Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws" May 9. Available online at: http://www.dol.gov/dol/opa/public/media/press/opa/opa96181.htm
_________________________. 1997. AOPA Press Release: U.S. Department of Labor Compliance Survey Finds More Than Half of New York City Garment Shops in Violation of Labor Laws [10/16/97". Available online at: http://www.dol.gov/dol/opa/public/media/press/opa/opa97369.htm. Accessed 7/2/98.
_________________________. 1998. OPA Press Release: U.S. Department of Labor Announces Latest Los Angeles Garment Survey Results [05/27/98]. Available online at: http://www.dol.gov/dol/opa/public/media/press/opa/opa98225.htm. Accessed 7/2/98.
United States Department of Labor. 2002. “U.S. Department of Labor 2001 New York City Garment Compliance Survey.” Available online at: http://www.dol.gov/Opa/Media/Press/Opa/NewYork_Survey.htm#survey1. Accessed on: June 5, 2003.
Targeted Industries Partnership Program. A Joint Enforcement and Educational Effort in the Agricultural and Garment Industries. Fourth Annual Report 1 9 9 6. California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), California Employment Development Department (EDD), United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (USDOL)
(2) See U.S. State Department Human Rights Reports (annual) for discussions of labor rights, minimum wage adequacy and enforcement and similarly appropriate measures.
(3) See US Office of Textiles and Apparel, Department of Commerce.
(5) National Labor Committee report at: http://www.nlcnet.org/news/KTS/KTS_Action_alert.pdf
(6) See Human Rights Watch, “Deliberate Indifference: El Salvador’s Failure to Protect Workers’ Rights,” December 2003 Vol. 15, No. 5(B)
(7) See, for example, Nike’s report of abusive treatment of workers in a majority of their south Asian plants: http://www.nike.com/nikebiz/gc/r/fy04/docs/FY04_Nike_CR_report_full.pdf A press report is available here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/ethicalbusiness/story/0,14713,1459135,00.html