Updates 2007November 28, 2007 -- SWEATFREE COMMUNITIES LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE
We invite you to browse around and check out the new look and organization of our website. We welcome your input on the site -- email us!
Last Wednesday the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted in favor of amendments to the sweatfree ordinance (passed two years ago) which will require the city to award contracts to bidders that are "most substantially" in compliance with the ordinance according to a point system still to be developed. Those mostly-but-not-fully-compliant bidders also need to submit a compliance plan that identifies the deficiencies in their bid and establishes a time table to achieve full compliance. Lack of timely progress in achieving better compliance is grounds for contract termination.
These amendments became necessary after the city exempted a number of apparel contracts from the sweatfree requirements because it could not find any fully compliant bidder. Though we remain concerned about the number and length of the exemptions already issued, the new ordinance signals to companies that there will be no more exemptions for reasons of non-compliance. Here is a link to the amendments. Note that some changes made during debate are not included in the online version of the amendments. We will post the final version once it is available.
The Board of Supervisors will hold another hearing on the amendments before they are adopted by the City.
November 12, 2007 -- NEW CAMPAIGN STARTS UP IN FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA
Students at Arizona State University have launched a campaign to get the city council of Flagstaff to adopt a sweatfree procurement policy. To learn more, check out this article on the JackCentral.com blog.
October 26, 2007 -- SAN FRANCISCO CONSIDERS AMENDMENTS TO SWEATFREE ORDINANCE
Today The Examiner reported that Supervisor Tom Ammiano has introduced amendments to the San Francisco sweatfree procurement law to provide a process for the city to purchase from the most compliant vendor when none of the bidding vendors are fully compliant with the law.
Former California State Senator Tom Hayden has expressed concerns with the new rules: "There is a real danger that the ordinance will be weakened by the extraordinary five-year exemptions given to several contractors even before the amendments or a monitor are in place."
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the new rules on November 6.
For further background, see our comments below from September 11.
October 24, 2007 -- MILWAUKEE EXPANDS SWEATFREE ORDINANCE TO ALL PRODUCTS
On Monday, the Milwaukee City Council voted unanimously to expand its sweatfree ordinance to cover city contracts for all products with threshold of $30,000. Expanding the ordinance from apparel to other products is a significant step toward supporting workers' rights across industries. However, to ensure contractor compliance the ordinance should require disclosure of production locations. The ordinance was co-sponsored by Alderman Tony Zielinski. Here is his press release.
The ordinance also strengthened the current Milwaukee sweatfree procurement ordinance for apparel adopted in April 2003 by designating an improved calculation method for non-poverty wage rates. Milwaukee Clean Clothes Campaign organized for and won this improved wage calculation.
October 22, 2007 -- A COALITION OF GROUPS ASKS GOVERNOR SPITZER TO JOIN THE SWEATFREE CONSORTIUM
A coalition of groups coordinated by SweatFree New York sent a joint letter to Governor Spitzer on October 19, asking the Governor to join the State and Local Government Sweatfree Consortium and to adopt strong sweatfree procurement legislation. Currently New York has an anti-sweatshop procurement law in place; however, it should be strengthened to require state vendors and contractors to abide by fair labor standards in exchange for public contracts. These standards would help assure that the state does not use our tax dollars to purchase products made in sweatshops.
The 17 signatories to the letter are leaders of UFCW Local 1500, CSEA Local 1000, Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church, AFSCME District Council 1707, AFSCME Council 66, Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, New York City - Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Fair Trade Resource Network, New York State United Teachers, AFSCME Council 82, Jewish Labor Committee, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181-1061, Labor Religion Coalition of New York State, New York Metro Area Postal Union Local 10, AFSCME District Council 37, UNITE HERE, and AFSCME Council 35.
October 22, 2007 -- COALITION ASKS MAINE GOVERNOR BALDACCI TO LEAD THE NATIONAL EFFORT FOR SWEATFREE CONSORTIUM
A coalition of 26 groups coordinated by Maine Clean Clothes Alliance sent a joint letter to Governor Baldacci on September 25 asking the Governor to formally join the State and Local Government Sweatfree Consortium, to make a financial contribution to the Consortium campaign, and to personally contact other governors to ask them to join the Consortium.
October 17, 2007 -- MASSACHUSETTS AFL-CIO ENDORSES MA SWEATFREE CAMPAIGN
During their convention, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO endorsed the Massachusetts Sweatfree Campaign bringing the campaign's total number of organizational endorsers to 28. In its endorsement, the Mass AFL-CIO said: "[S]weatshop labor has an inarguably harmful effect on the health and safety of workers who are directly affected by these workplace abuses, and on the wages and working conditions of all workers, who are affected indirectly by the global race to the bottom for cheap labor. ... [S]tate and local governments ... currently have no public accountability for where this apparel is purchased from, or the conditions under which it was produced ... the purchasing power of state and local government should be used to reinforce International Labor Organization Standards and local laws that protect workers, not undermine them."Read the full resolution.
For more information on the campaign and to get involved, go here.
September 11, 2007 -- SAN FRANCISCO COMMITS MONEY TO SWEATFREE CONSORTIUM; ACTIVISTS FOCUS ON ORDINANCE IMPLEMENTATION
The City of San Francisco, which adopted the toughest sweatfree procurement law on record late in 2005, has now agreed to make the largest financial contribution thus far to the State and Local Government Sweatfree Consortium. The pending $40,000 contribution will help SweatFree Communities develop the nascent organization and increase its membership, giving cities like San Francisco access to enforcement tools with real teeth. Yet, San Francisco's implementation of its own groundbreaking ordinance is currently steeped in controversy.
While city officials insist that they are committed to advancing the most aggressive sweatfree procurement ordinance in the country, activists wonder why the city then is granting several apparent multi-year contract waivers to apparel suppliers. The crux of the issue is what to do when – as appears to be the case - no vendor is 100% compliant with the city's information disclosure requirements and labor standards as embodied in the code of conduct. Can the city award contracts to the "most compliant" suppliers, while requesting that they work to achieve full compliance over a reasonable period of time? Or must the city treat the most compliant suppliers like anyone else and award the contract to the low bidder? While city officials and activists agree that the city's ordinance should be amended to forestall similar conundrums in the future, they are not in agreement on what to do in the interim period or how long this interim should be.
For the sake of the entire sweatfree movement, in which the City of San Francisco has played an invaluable leadership role, we hope that the city continues to tell suppliers in no uncertain terms that sweatshop products are not acceptable. At the same time, the very controversy in San Francisco points toward the real culprit: the industry. Why is it so difficult to find even a single apparel company that can comply with the very basic labor standards, such as payment of non-poverty wages, in San Francisco’s code of conduct? Can there be a clearer signal to us all that the global apparel industry is in dire need of reform?
• 90 Percent Perspiration: Learning from SF's Sweat-Free Mistakes
The Portland Mercury– Sep 6 - Sep 12, 2007
• Breaking a sweat: What's taking San Francisco so long to implement its anti-sweat shop law?
San Francisco Bay Guardian– August 29, 2007
• M&R: Racial politics marked BART board's search for new chief
San Francisco Chronicle– August 26, 2007
• Media release: Sweatfree San Francisco? I don't think so. Corporations continue to drive policy in San Francisco while ignoring labor rights around the world
Tom Hayden & Valerie Orth – August 20, 2007
August 30, 2007 (Portland Sweatfree Campaign) -- VICTORY IN PORTLAND: LANDMARK SWEATFREE RESOLUTION PASSES
Portland’s Sweatfree Procurement Resolution unanimously passed yesterday with the three present commissioners. Over 130 sweatfree supporters crowded City Hall, including union representatives, a former sweatshop worker, and community members to testify in support of the Resolution. Speakers included, Rev. Lynne Smouse Lopez, Ainsworth United Church of Christ; State Senator Brad Avakian; State Rep. Brad Witt; former GAP sweatshop worker Chie Abadj; James Hester, President of the District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU); Carol Stahlke, President of AFSCME 189; Heidi Carlson, President of Foundation Garments, Inc.; among many others.
The Sweatfree Resolution sets in motion a process to create the City of Portland Sweatshop Free Procurement policy for uniforms and clothing purchases to be fully implemented in 2008. The policy will require disclosure of supplier factory names and locations, provide $20,000 in funding for the State and Local Government Sweatfree Consortium to pool resources for investigations and monitoring of supplier factories, and establish a committee to craft a code of conduct for the city’s contractors, subcontractors, and vendors.
At the hearing, Commissioner Sam Adams affirmed that the policy committee will not include suppliers to the City of Portland or other individuals who have a potential conflict of interest in their reccomendations. The goal of the Resolution, as explained during the hearing by the Resolution’s sponsor, Commissioner Sam Adams, “…is to act on our community’s values and improve conditions for sweatshop workers.”
Community advocates celebrated today’s Resolution and also press on to guarantee that the final policy is also a true victory for workers.
Recent media coverage (list updated Sept 11):
• City of Portland pledges to buy no sweatshop apparel
Northwest Labor Press– September 7, 2007
• Workers' rights matter in city: Portland takes important step with 'sweatfree' policy
Portland Tribune– September 4, 2007
• Portland Approves Sweatshop-Free Resolution
Oregon Public Broadcasting– August 29, 2007
• Hall Monitor; Sweatfree Resolution Goes Before City Council This Morning; Labor Day Comes Early to Portland
The Portland Mercury– August 29, 2007
August 10, 2007 (Portland Sweatfree Campaign) -- ORGANIZERS IN PORTLAND, OREGON, PREPARE FOR VOTE ON SWEATFREE ORDINANCE
A coalition of 45 organizations, the Portland Sweatfree Campaign is in the last weeks of organizing before the August 29 city council vote on the sweatfree procurement ordinance. The Campaign is planning a lobby day on August 17.
July 19, 2007 (Berkeley Sweatfree Campaign) -- CITY OF BERKELEY JOINS STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SWEATFREE CONSORTIUM TO END TAX PAYER SUPPORT FOR SWEATSHOPS
Furthering its commitment to helping halt the race to the bottom for workers worldwide, the City Council of Berkeley unanimously passed a resolution declaring that: "the City supports the development of a state and local government sweatshop-free consortium that will pool resources for investigation and monitoring of supplier factories and coordinating the implementation and enforcement of sweatshop-free procurement standards."
"Through the adoption of this resolution, the City of Berkeley will become he first small city to contribute financially to this effort. Berkeley has had a long time commitment to the city will be able to help address the problems of sweatshop conditions and serve as a leader for other cities to adopt ethical procurement standards."
Council Member Kriss Worthington's suggestion to make the City's pledge of funding for the Consortium contingent upon commitment of funds from one or more other government entities was written into the resolution, and this is already bearing fruit. (Here is a statement from councilmembers Worthington and Spring.) The City of San Francisco, which already has a "Sweatfree" procurement ordinance in place, has begun a process to commit sufficient funds to launch the Consortium.
Igor Tregub, Chair of the Berkeley Commission on Labor, says, "This is a monumental step forward to assume leadership on an issue that deeply affects the world. In an increasingly interconnected system of global exchange, we must realize that our purchasing decisions affect more people than may at first meet the eye."
During public comment PhoeBe sorgen of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, which recently became an Abolitionist Congregation, asked the Council if they knew how many people are enslaved today worldwide. She said it is about 27 million, 80% female and 59% children, many of them in sweatshops. Ms. sorgen expressed pride that Berkeley is ensuring that our taxes will not fund corporate profit from slave labor.
Judy Shattuck, long-time union representative and organizer, wrote: This resolution, along with the City's pledge of $25,000.00 to fund the consortium, is critically important. It will set Berkeley in the direction of moving past rhetoric, to implementation of its stated recognition of human rights and worker rights world-wide.
Like global warming, the global exploitation of working people has effects that become increasingly clear as they threaten all of us. Just as the City of Berkeley must do what it can to fight global warming, the City must recognize its role in worker exploitation and take steps to stop it.
For more information: Diana Bohn, 510-525-5497, nicca(at)igc(dot)org
July 18, 2007 (Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance) -- CITY OF PITTSBURGH CONTROLLER CALLS FOR FACTORY DISCLOSURE AND INDEPENDENT MONITORING OF WORKING CONDITIONS
The Controller of the City of Pittsburgh has found that the City is not in compliance with its sweatfree procurement ordinance adopted in 1997. While all City service and commodity contractors certify that "nothing has come to [their] attention" indicating that the goods were "provided under sweatshop conditions," this anti-sweatshop certification "does not ensure that the products purchased by the City are sweatfree," writes the Controller in a performance audit presented to the Mayor and City Council on July 10, 2007. "The most effective way to ensure that purchases are sweatfree," the Controller found, "is to have independent monitoring of the conditions of production." The Controller made five recommendations to ensure more effective policy enforcement, including requiring contractors to disclose factory locations and wage information.
The Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance (PASCA), a board member of SweatFree Communities, applauded the report and plans to work with the City to implement the Controller's recommendations.
June 21, 2007 (Austin SweatFree Campaign) -- AUSTIN CITY COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES SWEATFREE PROCUREMENT ORDINANCE
This morning the Austin, Texas, City Council unanimously passed a sweatfree ordinance.
Before it was voted on, Council Member Mike Martinez, the lead sponsor, recognized the over 25 supporters in attendance. Council Members Jennifer Kim and Sheryl Cole also commented on the ordinance, how important it was for the city, and how impressed they were with the support, especially from the religious community.
This is an exciting moment after lots of hard work over the last year and a half. A big thank you to all who have put time into supporting this effort, whether it was sending an e-mail of support to city council members or slogging through months of planning meetings. It's only because the council recognized that this issue had deep and broad support from across the Austin community that they approved it.
Residents of Austin can send thank you e-mails to the city council commending them for approving the sweatfree ordinance. The campaign will now be looking ahead to making sure that the ordinance gets implemented successfully, and to starting conversations with County Commissioners about a possible sweatfree policy for Travis County.
Op-Ed by Carla Cheatham, Executive Director of the Religion and Labor Network of Austin.
June 19, 2007 (Austin SweatFree Campaign) -- AUSTIN CITY COUNCIL TO CONSIDER SWEATREE ORDINANCE THIS WEEK
The Austin SweatFree Campaign is pleased to announce that their proposed SweatFree Ordinance - now officially called the "Procurement Code for Humane Workplaces" - will be considered by the Austin City Council this Thursday, June 21 (Agenda Item 152).
Today there was a great feature, "Austin looks to combat sweatshop labor," in the Austin American-Statesman.
The Campaign's meetings with City Council members have been very positive, but it's important that they hear from as many supporters as possible in these critical days before the vote - so if you live in Austin, please take a moment to email city council now!
SOME TIPS TO MAKE YOUR E-MAIL EFFECTIVE:
1. In your subject line, write "PLEASE SUPPORT HUMANE WORKPLACES, Item #152." That way, your busy Council Members will know immediately what you want.
2. Keep your e-mail as brief and positive as possible. Thank them in advance for their support!
3. Some key points you may wish to cover:
• Your personal concern about widespread sweatshop abuses
• Sweatshop practices will not change without the commitment of large institutional purchasers like the city; individual consumers cannot do this alone
• Your tax dollars should be spent responsibly and only to support legal and humane workplaces
• Austin has taken a strong lead on environmental issues and you would be proud to see your city show the same leadership on this critical issue of human rights and dignity
• This ordinance is a practical, cost-effective way for Austin to make a real difference in the lives of workers at home and abroad
May 30, 2007 (New York State Labor-Religion Coalition) -- SCHENECTADY ADOPTS SWEATFREE PURCHASING POLICY
Last night Schenectady became the fourth city in NY to successfully enact a sweatfree purchasing policy. There was a unanimous vote in favor by the Schenectady City Council.
May 30, 2007 (Peace through Interamerican Community Action) -- MAINE ADOPTS LEGISLATION WHICH WILL FUND MAINE'S PARTICIPATION IN THE SWEATFREE CONSORTIUM
By an overwhelming bipartisan majority the Maine State Legislature has passed LD 1678, the bill which funds Maine’s participation in a consortium of state and local governments working together to investigate working conditions at the factories that produce footwear, textiles, and apparel for the consortium’s members.
Governor John Baldacci and Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco took the first steps toward launching this consortium when they sent appeals to governors and mayors a little over a year ago. The consortium came a step closer to becoming a reality when prospective members gathered for a meeting in Harrisburg, PA this spring. Now Maine, which was the first state in the nation to adopt a sweatfree purchasing policy, has also become the first state to commit to funding for the Sweatfree Consortium. The funding will come from a 1% vendor’s fee on all contracts covered by the sweatfree purchasing policy.
May 15, 2007 (Peace through Interamerican Community Action) -- COMMMITTEE OF MAINE LEGISLATURE UNANIMOUSLY SUPPORTS ANTI-SWEATSHOP BILL -- The State and Local Government Committee of the Maine State Legislature has unanimously endorsed LD 1678, the bill which funds Maine's participation in the State and Local Government Sweatfree Consortium. Both Democratic and Republican members of the Committee offered moving testimony in support of the bill, which is expected to pass the House and Senate easily now that it has the Committee's unanimous support.
Governor John Baldacci and Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco took the first steps toward launching this consortium when they sent appeals to governors and mayors a little over a year ago. The consortium came a step closer to becoming a reality when prospective members gathered for a meeting in Harrisburg, PA this spring. Now Maine, which was the first state to pass a sweatfree purchasing policy, has also become the first state to commit to funding for the consortium. The funding will come from a 1% vendor's fee on all contracts covered by the sweatfree purchasing policy.
March 27, 2007 (SweatFree Communities) -- STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SWEATFREE CONSORTIUM CONVENING MEETING -- On March 29, SweatFree Communities, representatives from local sweatfree campaigns, and experts in the fields of labor law, trade, and monitoring are meeting with public officials from Los Angeles, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and San Francisco to discuss vision for the State and Local Government Sweatfree Consortium.
Here is a letter from Governor Baldacci of Maine to meeting participants.
March 10, 2007 (Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance) -- COUNCIL CREATES SWEATSHOP POLICY FOR ALLEGHENY COUNTY -- Thanks to the persistant organizing of Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance, the county adopted a sweatfree procurement policy. Here is the release from Council Member Robinson:
On March 6, 2007, Allegheny County Council passed a bill introduced by Council Member William Russell Robinson to create a County policy regarding the purchase of goods made in sweatshop conditions. The bill, patterned after and intended to be entirely consistent with the City of Pittsburgh's sweatshop policy, applies to County purchases that are subject to the formal procurement process. Among other things, the new Ordinance prohibits the County from buying items produced in factories in which overtime is forced, in which the workers are not permitted to protest conditions, or that are not in compliance with employment laws or regulations. The sweatshop policy will be subject to a thorough review by the County Controller after it has been in force for a year in an effort to ensure continued vigilance throughout the formal procurement process.
"I would very much like to offer my thanks to all of my colleagues on Council and the County Administration for their invaluable contributions to this legislation, as well as to the community for providing additional perspective and suggestions," Robinson noted. "It is simply a matter of common sense; we as a County do not want to encourage the use of sweatshop labor through our purchases, and this bill creates a means of ensuring that we do not do so. On Tuesday, Council's vote to approve the bill was unanimous, and I think that speaks volumes about the wisdom of Allegheny County joining the vanguard of municipal governments across the country that have begun enacting policies like this one. Indeed, I would encourage the Pennsylvania General Assembly to build upon Governor Rendell's Executive Order regarding sweatshop purchases, and enact a statewide sweatshop policy."
The sweatshop policy will be delivered to the Chief Executive for his signature by the close of business on the afternoon of Friday, March 9. The Executive will then have seven days to reach a decision on the bill, but Council Member Robinson is hopeful that the Executive will endorse it with his signature.
March 6, 2007 (Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance) -- PITTSBURGH PASSES RESOLUTION CALLING FOR PERFORMANCE AUDIT OF 1997 SWEATFREE PROCUREMENT ORDINANCE -- A resolution championed by the Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance and sponsored by Pittsburgh City Council President Doug Shields passed the council unanimously in February. The resolution recognizes that sweatshop conditions are widespread in the apparel industry. It calls on the Controller of the City of Pittsburgh to conduct a performance audit within 90 days to assure compliance with the sweatfree procurement ordinance adopted by Pittsburgh in 1997. View the resolution.
February 2, 2007 (Portland Sweatfree Campaign) -- PORTLAND BUYING GOODS FROM COMPANIES THAT USE SWEATSHOPS -- The Portland Sweatfree Campaign relased information yesterday on the city's involvement with companies that use sweatshops. Read their news release.
The Portland Sweatfree Campaign began in 2006 to educate City Council on the steps Portland can take to help end sweatshop abuses. The campaign is currently endorsed by over 40 Portland-based community organizations.
The campaign is planning a rally at City Hall on February 19 at noon. Sweatshop workers from Colombia and India will speak at the rally. For more information, visit the campaign website.
January 22, 2007 (PICA) -- MAINE WORKING GROUP RELEASES REPORT -- Last year Maine took two steps towards state and city collaboration. Working with SweatFree Communities and Maine’s clean clothes movement, Governor Baldacci called for a Governors’ Coalition for Sweatfree Procurement and Workers’ Rights to create a State and Local Government Sweatfree Consortium, creating an economy of scale for reliable and efficient verification of working conditions. The Legislature, meanwhile, created a Code of Conduct Working Group including worker rights advocates and Maine-based businesses to figure out the means by which such a Consortium could be created and function.
In its recent report to the Legislature, the Working Group stressed their unanimity of opinion. These are the key points they agreed to:
• An independent consortium to monitor and investigate worker rights violations at state supplier factories is needed.
• Monitoring should be carried out by a not-for-profit organization that is neither funded nor controlled, in whole or in part, by businesses selling or manufacturing apparel, footwear or textiles.
• Local and state governments become members of the consortium by adopting a code of conduct that provides strong protection for workers; requiring vendors to publicly disclose the names and locations of all factories involved in the production of the products to be monitored; paying affiliation dues; and assigning liaison staff to the consortium.
• Annual consortium dues are projected to be 1% of the contract value of the total amount of goods to be monitored.
• In the case of Maine, the best mechanism for raising consortium dues is to charge vendors who are awarded state apparel, footwear, and textile contracts 1% of the cost of the contract.
• A standing Citizens’ Code of Conduct Advisory Group should assist the State Purchasing Agent in developing the monitoring consortium and in implementing, administrating, and enforcing the Code of Conduct.
The Working Group is proposing legislation to authorize the vendor-fee to fund Maine’s participation in the Consortium and to create the Citizens’ Advisory Group. If you live in Maine, please urge your state legislators to support An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the State Code of Conduct Working Group or contact PICA for more information.
January 22, 2007 (Milwaukee Clean Clothes Campaign) -- MILWAUKEE CONSIDERS IMPROVED SWEATFREE ORDINANCE AND FAIR TRADE ORDINANCE -- The City of Milwaukee is considering building upon the sweatfree policy it adopted in April 2003. The proposed ordinance expands on the previous ordinance by requiring all goods procured by the city (above a certain contract size) to be made by responsible manufacturers. The existing ordinance applies only to apparel contractors. In addition, the proposed ordinance includes minor changes to the definition of non-poverty wage.
The proposed sweatfree ordinance maintains that "Minimum standards for workers' and human rights should be extended to all workers, and that it is the responsibility of the city of Milwaukee to ensure that it is not expending funds in ways that contribute to violation of local and international labor laws and the proliferation of poverty... As a participant in the marketplace, the city chooses to expend its purchasing dollars to enhance the economic and social well-being of people..."
In addition, Milwaukee is considering an ordinance related to the procurement of fair trade certified products.