A blog to keep current on MPIRG'S fight for social and environmental justice.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Procuring a Sweatshop Free Future

This past spring, the UMD Chapter of MPIRG began a campaign that would ensure that all uniform, apparel, and footwear purchases by the city of Duluth would be sweatshop free. The campaign was instituted through our membership in the Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition with the collaboration of its director, Josh Wise.  We have made great headway on the topic of procurement by the city of Duluth, basing our efforts on successful ordinance adoption in cities and states across the country through the assistance of the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium.  The Consortium, which we are urging the city of Duluth to join, is a national membership organization for public entities seeking to purchase products made under fair labor conditions and provides policy tools, vendor and manufacturer reviews, and other resources to aid public entities in purchasing sweatshop free.

Efforts thus far have involved meeting with the city of Duluth’s purchasing agent, city councilors, and the Mayor’s office, to bring attention to this lack of oversight in purchasing and to provide effective ways to ensure that future purchases adhere to sweatshop free standards. To build community support we have started a citizen petition drive, developed an organizational endorsement strategy, and have held one of two public forums on the topic of creating a sweatshop free procurement policy for city purchases. Local supporters include the Duluth Central Labor Body and the North East Area Labor Council with additional endorsements expected through the month of August. 

Speaker Al LaFrenier takes a question during our public forum.
This work on the municipal level is one small piece of an international movement to better the working conditions of those in the apparel industry and to dis-incentivize manufacturers from utilizing sweatshop conditions.  Through this action, the city of Duluth will join Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Austin, Santa Fey, and many more public entities on the moral high ground of taking an ethical stance against supporting sweatshops. Purchasing sweatshop goods unknowingly through a contracted vendor is not an excuse our governments can hide behind.  The resources and expertise are available and willing to aid them in making better decisions and we are leading the charge in showing them how.

Steve Wick
Campus Organizer, UMD 

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