Recently Maine became the first state with an anti-sweatshop purchasing law. The Maine Anti-sweatshop Purchasing Bill is a subsection of the budget. This huge victory for everyone in Maine and for the anti-sweatshop movement was won by the efforts of a wide variety of peoplecollege and high school students, factory workers, small business owners, politicians, and consumers who worked together to create both the bill and its popular support. GEO hopes the victory in Maine will inspire others to draft similar legislation in their own states and to continue to work to educate the public on the issue of sweatshop labor.
PICA (Peace through Interamerican Community Action) comments on the law:
The Maine Antisweathop Purchasing Law, the first of its kind for a state, requires businesses seeking contracts to sell footwear, apparel and textiles to the Maine state government to sign an affidavit that to the best of their knowledge products they supply to the state were not made in a sweatshop as defined by the Purchasing Code of Conduct. Businesses need to make a good faith effort to learn about working conditions. The Code of Conduct is defined as compliance with all applicable laws at the site of assembly as well as with international human rights and labor rights treaties which both the U.S. and the country in which the goods are assembled have signed.
The law is crafted to withstand legal challenges similar to those that overturned the Massachusetts law barring state purchases of products from Burma.
The vast majority of Maine government vendors are small Maine businesses. The anti-sweatshop bill is based on the assumption that these businesses, similar to the small retailers participating in the Clean Clothes Campaign, can be allies in the anti-sweatshop movement.
If the Purchasing Agent determines that a supplier is violating the code of conduct, the state, through the Purchasing Agent, will work in partnership with the vendor, using their influence to help improve working conditions rather than cease to do business with the supplier.
Among the steps involved in promoting such change is that the Purchasing Agent contacts the vendor selling the product in question, initiates a dialogue about the situation, and prescribes appropriate steps for the vendor to take in order to comply with the code of conduct. Such steps can include requesting access for independent human rights monitors or requesting human rights and labor rights training for workers. Any information obtained through this relationship will be public.
The $100,000 funding for the bill will support a clean clothes staff person and redesigning the purchasing database to facilitate gathering and sharing information about working conditions. The plan is for this database to be linked to the Clean Clothes Campaigns database and accessible on the web.
Peace through Interamerican Community Action (PICA) sponsors: the Bangor/ El Salvador Sister City Project, the Bangor Clean Clothes Campaign, the Maine Clean Clothes Alliance, and Youth Adelantando (see p.2 of this issue). For more information about the bill and about PICA, call 207947-4203, email firstname.lastname@example.org , see www.pica.ws, or write 170 Park Street Bangor, ME.
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