Oregon Sweatfree Campaign
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a sweatshop?
Sweatshop labor means work performed by any worker under terms or conditions that violate the laws of the jurisdiction within which the work is performed; or violate core labor rights as defined by the International Labor Organization; or that pay a poverty wage. Unfortunately,sweatshops are not an
aberration in the global apparel industry. The U.S. Department of Labor cites over 50% of the sewing shops in the United States as sweatshops. Some large companies themselves now publicly admit to serious and chronic human rights violations in most of their factories. For example, NIKE admitted that up to 50% of its Asian factories restricted access to toilets and drinking water; up to 50% of factories deny workers even one day off every week; and in 25% of factories workers are paid below even inadequate legal minimum wages. (1)
What is included in the proposed Oregon sweatfree purchasing policy?
- A sweatfree manufacturing code of conduct: All vendors, contractors, and subcontractors must adhere to the code of conduct which includes respect of local laws and International Labor Organization standards; non poverty wages, adjusted by labor markets; freedom of association; non discrimination; ban on child labor; and safe working conditions.
- Public disclosure and transparency: To qualify for a bid, vendors must disclose locations of factories and the wages of workers producing goods to be sold to the state.
- Independent accountability: Oregon will join other states and local governments in the State and Local Government Sweatfree Consortium to pool resources, investigate labor violations, monitor factories, coordinate enforcement, and buy jointly from sweatfree factories.
- Sweatfree Procurement Advisory Committee: Established to advise the state purchasing office on policy implementation and enforcement.
Who would support a sweat-free policy in Oregon?
Working people: Sweatshops represent a general decline in wages and working conditions. Since 1994 Oregonians have lost 68,000 jobs due to trade related activities.(2) Many sweatshops have appeared overseas due to cheap labor costs and lax environmental standards.
Local business owners: Sweatshop exploitation undermines local economies and the competitive ability of companies with fair labor practices.
Women: 85% of sweatshop workers are young women between the ages of 15-25.(3)
Human rights activists: Everyone deserves dignity, respect and to work free of exploitation.
Civil rights activists: People of color and women are the majority workforce in sweatshops. Sweatshops deny workers basic human rights.
How can a sweatfree policy make a difference?
Sweatfree policies tackle the root causes of sweatshops and introduce a vision of a new global economy where fairness , justice, and dignity are rewarded and not penalized. A sweatfree campaign is a powerful way to build public awareness
about sweatshops, transform outrage about sweatshops into engagement with local institutions, and take proactive legal action. If the independent monitoring organization discovers that a production facility does not meet standards set
forth in the policy, the state will pressure the supplier to improve its conditions. The policy does not promote cut-and-run tactics and the cancellation of a contract is a last resort.
Do other states have sweatfree policies?
Yes! California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Maine and Pennsylvania are among the over 180 states, cities, counties, and school districts nationwide that have adopted sweatfree policies.
How much would a sweatfree policy cost?
The sweatfree policy requires funding for independent monitoring and staffing to ensure that it is meaningful and properly implemented. The sweatfree procurement policy requires a fee for membership in the State and Local Government Sweatfree Consortium,equivalent to 1% of the value of a contract or
purchase order covered by the policy. A fee can be required of vendors to cover the costs of this membership, similarly to policy enacted by the state of Maine. The Consortium will oversee the investigation of allegations of worker rights violations at supplier factories, identify potential pre-screened sweatfree supplier factories, and facilitate cooperative sweatfree purchasing.
Would higher wages for workers increase the cost of clothing?
An increase in workers' wages has little effect on the price of the garment. Workers wages are often less than 1% of the consumer price.(4) Raising wages does not significantly affect companies' profit margin, even if they do not pass on added costs to consumers. But suppose they did. If a company doubled the wages, causing the price of a $20 garment to increase to $20.20, would you be willing to pay the difference? Our public institutions should use our taxpayer money to choose clothes sold to the lowest responsible price--not at a price
that can only be met by using sweatshops.
How will a sweatfree policy affect the local economy?
The local economy thrives when incentives exist for fair business practices. A global economy founded on sweatshop exploitation undermines global economic security and political stability. Sweatfree purchasing policies ensure a level playing field where all companies compete for business without the unfair advantage of exploiting workers.
Would a sweatfree policy violate trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA?
The procurement rules in trade agreements do not apply to U.S. counties, cities, school districts, or smaller public entities. NAFTA's chapter on government procurement only applies to federal government entities. CAFTA's chapter on government procurement only applies to those states whose governor has signed on to the rules. Governor Kulongoski declined Oregon's participation in any trade agreement that affects procurement, including CAFTA.
(1) See Nike's Corporate Responsibility Report at:
(2) See Oregon Fair Trade Coalition's "Faces of Free Trade and Job Loss" report
(3,4) See Sweatfree Communities "toolkit" for more information: