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11/17/2004

Have A Sweat Shop-Free Holidays

In the rush to purchase holiday gifts, some shoppers are ensuring the products they buy are not made in sweatshops where workers labor in unsafe conditions and are paid wages so low they must struggle to feed and shelter their families. At the same time, Los Angeles city officials have taken steps to make sure the $3 million the city spends annually on goods such as police uniforms are not made in sweatshops.

Last week, a coalition of economic justice advocates in Southern California convinced the Los Angeles City Council to pass an ordinance that requires city contractors to abide by a code of conduct to ensure suppliers follow fair workplace laws. Passed unanimously, the measure requires the city to hire an outside firm to monitor compliance and inspect factories.

"Whether we're buying uniforms, desk chairs, computers or pens, the city government shouldn't be sending its money to sweatshops," says Councilman Eric Garcetti, who introduced the ordinance. "Companies who exploit or abuse their workers should have no part in supplying L.A. with the goods we use to run the city."

Union activists, community groups, students and people of faith campaigned for two years to pass the ordinance. The coalition, spearheaded by the group No More Sweatshops, is building on its victory at the Los Angeles Unified School District, which in April agreed to comprehensive anti-sweatshop procurement reforms. The anti-sweatshop movement began in colleges some six years ago, when students formed United Students Against Sweatshops and successfully fought for regulations at more than 100 campuses mandating logo-bearing apparel be made under fair conditions. Activists expanded their campaigns to educational institutions at all levels. Several years ago, New York Gov. George Pataki (R) signed laws allowing school districts and public universities to implement their own anti-sweatshop legislation, which many have done.
Holiday Gift-Givers Shopping Sweat-FreeHoliday shoppers also have an array of options for ensuring the gifts they buy aren't made in sweatshops.

With greeting cards, games, clothes, books and music in stock, The Union Shop Onlineā„¢ is the first stop for activists who want to buy union-made and social-justice oriented holiday gifts for their friends and families. In Washington, D.C., The Union Shop is located at the AFL-CIO, 815 16th St., N.W.

Holiday shoppers also can give the gift of good jobs by buying union-made presents for the holidays during Buy Union Week, Nov. 26-Dec. 5, spearheaded by the AFL-CIO Union Label and Service Trades Department, which recently launched the all-union online shopping site, www.ShopUnionMade.org. The site also enables visitors to send holiday e-cards with Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwaanza themes.

Consumers who want to do even more can spread the word about sweat-free shopping to store owners and fellow shoppers by downloading postcards and fliers from the Campaign for Labor Rights. The postcards urge store managers to enforce a code of conduct to ensure suppliers provide workers with a safe, dignified workplace and the freedom to form unions without intimidation. Activists also can distribute leaflets at shopping malls and houses of worship about the postcard campaign.

Explore AFL-CIO resources on stopping sweatshops.

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