Apparel Vendor Ethics Eyed
February 4, 2012 Journal North
By Kiera Hay
The city of Santa Fe is taking steps to ensure its garment vendors are adhering to the highest ethical standards.
A resolution pending at City Hall would amend Santa Fe’s procurement code to require all companies that sell uniforms to the city “to abide by a code of conduct that declares manufacturing locations to be sweat-free and slave-free.”
Sweat-free is defined as protections against slavery, forced overtime, child labor, excessive hours, below-subsistence wages, discriminations, abuse, harassment and similar violations, plus protections for freedom of association, health and safety.
City Councilor Ron Trujillo and city procurement staff agreed to propose the resolution after being approached by sweat-free advocates.
Trujillo said he doesn’t believe municipal government currently works with uniform suppliers that get their goods from unethical sources. But he said the resolution will put parameters in place to guarantee that’s the case.
“I don’t think we are (using unethical vendors) but I don’t know that. I don’t suspect that we are, but I think by adding this resolution and abiding by it will send a message that the city is going to do business with people that are ethical,” Trujillo said.
Under the resolution, bidders must agree to a set of sweat-free requirements, such as signing a code of conduct, providing a list of all manufacturing locations and cooperating with possible monitoring by the city – possibly in the form of an audit. If a vendor gets its clothes from an outside supplier, the supplier will have to sign documents stating it isn’t in violation of the policy.The rules will apply whether the city is purchasing $500 worth of T-shirts for a fundraiser or buying uniforms for the entire Water Division, Santa Fe purchasing officer Robert Rodarte said.
“The city believes in this type of movement, and we have our ethical responsibility here to make sure we do our share at our end to abide by a nice code of conduct, so to speak. We’re just trying to be socially responsible here,” Rodarte said.
Other cities have adopted similar policies, notably Seattle, Rodarte said.
The resolution also opens up the possibility of expanding the city’s ethical commitment when it comes to other goods such as safety gear, uniform accessories and rental products.
There are a few caveats. According to the resolution, the policy wouldn’t affect emergency purchases. And it wouldn’t apply if no sweat-free bidders are available and the purchase is considered essential. The policy also wouldn’t apply if the purchase is made through another public entity or by a cooperative purchasing agreement or in cases where funding requirements prohibit ethical standards.
“The end-goal of a sweat-free procurement policy is to make an aspirational statement that encourages the marketplace to move toward sweat-free production facilities, and to provide a pragmatic and practical approach that can be implemented with likely compliance,” the resolution said.
The city is planning to solicit bids for uniforms this spring. Overall, Santa Fe spends about $350,000 annually on uniforms, generally buying them from several companies, Rodarte said.
Rodarte said he doesn’t expect the new policy would increase the price the city pays for its garments. The resolution will be reviewed by the City Council in late February.
City Councilor Miguel Chavez has introduced a separate resolution to amend the city’s procurement code to encourage the city to purchase goods and services provided by American companies.