Issue 3 (May 2013)
Contents: 1. Annual membership meeting 2.End Trafficking and Forced Labor in Government Contracting 3. St Louis County Goes Sweatfree 4. Los Angeles "Good Food" Procurement Policy 5. Better Work Report on Factories in Haiti 6. Letter from the President 7. Member Feature: Los Angeles 8. A Note on the Building Collapse at Rana Plaza, Bangladesh
Please mark your calendars: Tuesday, June 4, 1-3pm EDT
The Consortium's annual membership meeting will be conducted as a webinar and conference call featuring experts on the new federal procurement rules prohibiting trafficking and forced labor in federal contracts. We look forward to presentations from representatives of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. State Department, and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. In addition there will be several exciting updates on Consortium activities and members will vote in a new Board of Directors. Three new public entity representatives and one new labor rights expert have been nominated to the Board. Please plan to join! Here are the new nominees.
For more information about the new rules against human trafficking and forced labor in government contracts, read on...
A new law against human trafficking and forced labor in federal government contracts establishes prevention, accountability, and enforcement procedures that are of interest to state and local government buyers who seek compliance with broader “sweatfree” labor standards.
In 2011 the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting found that more than 70,000 third country nationals, recruited from countries like Bangladesh, Fiji, and the Philippines work for U.S. military contractors and subcontractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lured by the promise of lucrative wages, they are paid only minimal wages for long hours in abusive conditions. In debt to labor brokers, and their passports confiscated, they are unable to leave.
The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act (ETGCA), which became law on January 2, 2013, and the substantially similar Executive Order 13627, Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking In Persons In Federal Contracts, issued on September 25, 2012, address these problems by requiring contractor compliance plans and cooperation with investigators to ascertain compliance with all applicable laws restricting trafficking in persons and forced labor. ETGCA also extends criminal prohibitions against fraudulent labor practices, including trafficking, to contractors and subcontractors overseas.
Once the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council issues the implementing rules it will no longer be enough for large federal contractors to sign an attestation that they have made a “good faith” effort to ensure they are not supplying goods in violation of the labor standards, as they must currently do to comply with a 1999 Executive Order prohibiting federal procurement of products made with forced or indentured child labor (Executive Order 13126). Instead, they will have to certify, prior to receiving an award and annually thereafter, that they have implemented a plan to prevent trafficking in persons and forced labor and that they have procedures to prevent prohibited activities. Compliance plans include awareness programs for employees, a process for employees to report trafficking-related violations safely and confidentially, and wage and housing plans. Executive Order13627 further requires government contractors and subcontractors to provide access to contracting agencies and other responsible enforcement agencies to conduct audits, investigations, or other actions to ascertain compliance. ETGCA requires federal agency Inspector Generals to investigate allegations of non-compliance.
The Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium submitted comments in response to the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council request for comment on the implementation of ETGCA and the new Executive Order. Our comments are available here.
Section 103 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines three necessary components of trafficking:
Physical transport from one locale to another is not a requirement for trafficking. The law addresses the subtle means of coercion used by traffickers to control victims, including psychological coercion, trickery, and the seizure of documents.
On March 12, 2013, the St. Louis County Council passed legislation that prohibits the county government from buying any apparel manufactured under sweatshop conditions. The bill applies to any uniforms, shoes, garments and accessories purchased for county employees. This is the third success in three years for the Interfaith Committee on Latin America, which has previously campaigned for University City and the City of St. Louis to adopt sweatfree procurement ordinances. For more information from the Interfaith Committee on Latin America, go here.
Exciting news from Los Angeles!
In 2004, the City of Los Angeles was one of the first cities to adopt a sweatfree procurement policy for apparel. Now the City has broken new ground with the first food procurement policy to require labor standards for food workers in the supply chain.
In October 2012, the City of Los Angeles adopted The Good Food Purchasing Pledge, a food purchasing policy to promote environmentally sustainable food production, local sourcing, fair labor practices, animal welfare, and healthy eating habits. In November 2012, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest in the country, also adopted the pledge. All vendors must commit to comply with domestic labor law and the core standards of the International Labor Organization, and can score additional points by supplying products from suppliers with certifications such as Fair Trade, Food Justice, Equitable Food or from suppliers where workers are organized in unions or worker-owned cooperatives. The City and LAUSD are now working with advocates to implement the policy, tracking the sources of the purchased food down to the farm level, measuring the baseline of their current food purchases, and developing a plan to increase their purchases of Good Food over the next five years.
Better Work Report on Haitian Factories: 100% Non-Compliance with Minimum Wage
Better Work Haiti, a labor compliance initiative of the International Labor Organization and the International Finance Corporation, has released its sixth assessment of 24 participating factories in Haiti. Among the 24 factories, at least seven factories produce apparel for public entities (Genesis S.A., Global Manufacturers & Contractors S.A., Island Apparel S.A., Magic Sewing Manufacturing S.A., Palm Apparel S.A., Premium Apparel S.A., and Sewing International S.A.). According to the report, all factories violate the requirement that the piece rate is set at a level such that a worker can earn at least 300 gourdes per day for ordinary hours of work. Only 16% of workers can make the quota requirement for the 300 gourdes daily wage, down from 28% of workers in the previous assessment. Better Work also found widespread and serious non-compliances in occupational safety and health, including failures to properly store and label chemicals and hazardous substances, train workers to use fire-fighting equipment, install proper machine guards on dangerous moving parts, train workers in use of machines and equipment.
For more information about the Better Work report, go here.
By Michele M. Reale
It has been a very busy and exciting first quarter of the calendar year for the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium.
Unfortunately, the Consortium started out 2013 still dealing with the aftermath of the two tragic garment factory fires in Pakistan and Bangladesh that claimed the lives of hundreds of garment workers. In response, the Consortium issued Principles of Social Compliance which can be found here on the Consortium’s website.
The fires did restart discussions regarding sweatfree policies at both the state and federal levels and the Consortium is happy to be taking part in those discussions. The Consortium, in conjunction with the International Labor Rights Forum, submitted comments to the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council on a proposed executive order and law prohibiting human trafficking and forced labor in federal government contracts. In addition, discussions were held with state of California and the county of St. Louis regarding sweatfree policies and the Consortium.
The Consortium continues its efforts to fundraise and increase membership. After the first of the year, letters were sent to approximately thirty (30) governmental entities regarding membership and the fundraising campaign continues. Increased membership and donations are critical to supporting the Consortium and advancing its policies and goals. If you would like additional information on either becoming a member or making a donation please visit the Consortium’s website.
The 2013 annual meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 via conference call. Additional details will be made available as the date gets closer, but please mark your calendars. This meeting is an opportunity for members and non-members to receive updates on the Consortium’s activities. In addition, it is a chance to hear presentations from individuals working in the area of sweatfree procurement on the challenges and triumphs that are occurring in this field.
As always, please contact me at email@example.com if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions regarding the Consortium. I wish you all a rewarding and fulfilling spring.
Interview with Farshid Yazdi, Management Analyst II, Supplier & Customer Relations
Department of General Services, City of Los Angeles
SPC: You are a management analyst. What do you do?
FY: It’s very generic title for public entities. Management Analysts normally work on different analytical work—reports, studying cases, or assisting the city in enforcement policies and ordinances. My main assignment has been monitoring and enforcement of the sweatfree ordinance. In the past six to seven months that has changed slightly as I am getting more exposure to other projects.
My role in the enforcement of the sweatfree ordinance is coordinator or liaison, working with different parties in this process, including the procurement office, the city attorney—as cases arise if there are violations—vendors—to make sure they understand the city’s expectations and their obligations—our monitor, and labor advocates, whether through the advisory group or the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium. I am hoping that a collaborative effort with all these parties will result in full enforcement of the city’s policy.
SPC: Tell us about Los Angeles’ sweatfree procurement policy. What are the city’s goals?
FY: Well, the goals are very clearly stated in the ordinance itself and also in the one-page code of conduct. It is to ensure the integrity of the city’s procurement process, ensure fair compensation and treatment of workers throughout the supply chain, and prevent discrimination and abuse. More generally, sweatfree procurement will also support the contractors who do not follow sweatshop practices.
SPC: Are you meeting your goals?
FY: It’s not an easy task to ensure 100% compliance. We have been lucky to have a contract with the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC); not many cities have that relationship. If any city can claim that they have mechanisms to fully enforce its sweatfree procurement policy, it would be Los Angeles. But even WRC has frustrations with the process. They feel sometimes that they have a moving target because the manufacturer’s facilities often change. And although we have a high level of confidence in our mechanism to enforce the policy, the living wage has been hard to enforce. It’s difficult to determine what portion of the workforce in each facility has been actually working on the product for LA. But overall we are in a good position to say we have a good system in place to enforce our policy.
SPC: Can you tell us more about your strategy for meeting your sweatfree goals?
FY: Part of the strategy was to find a contractor for monitoring and enforcement because we know that the city by itself does not have the network to monitor compliance outside the United States. We really needed an organization to have that kind of reach. Aside from that, our main strategy has always been to make sure we find more efficient and innovative ways to reach our goals. One of the steps we chose, related to the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium, was to improve cooperation and coordination among public entities. We joined the Consortium. We are hoping that it turns into an organization that most public entities can go to in order to get help with sweatfree enforcement.
We are also in a much better position today with regard to public awareness of the issue. It’s a key area I believe advocates and media can have a key role. When the public understands this issue, they will demand sweatfree purchasing and they can accelerate the whole process of sweatfree policy development. We are hoping that the work the advisory committee does can help further public awareness.
Overall my feeling is that LA residents have a high level of awareness on this issue—whether it’s apparel, coffee, food, or diamonds—you get the sense people care where the product comes from. They want it to be made in sweatfree conditions, conflict free, fair trade, sustainable…
I studied diffusion of innovation at Cal State and it works the same way for new ideas as for technology. In 2003 SweatFree Communities became an opinion leader. Then the City of LA in 2004 adopted a policy and became a leading adopter of the new idea. So it’s very important for LA residents to actually know this.
SPC: Can you talk about some of the successes that you have had so far?
FY: The city was one of the first cities to adopt a sweatfree procurement policy; that set the tone for what is going to come next. Then the city became one of still few cities with a contract for code enforcement with an independent monitor. If you remember when the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) conducted a full-scale investigation of New Wide Garment in Cambodia; that was the first such investigation for a city.
At every manufacturing facility, the activities that the city supported have resulted in various positive changes, with regard to freedom of association, paying back wages, occupational health and safety, hours of work and overtime, or non-discrimination. There have been major changes in all factories WRC got involved with. In the area of paying back wages, in some cases it resulted in payment of $30-40,000 to workers in those factories. It may not sound like a lot to us but there it had a big impact on workers’ lives. It’s good just to see what kind of impact the city can have.
The impact is not limited to investigations. Educational activities to make sure workers are educated about their rights and know how to file complaints are also important. Raising the awareness among workers about their rights—that in itself is priceless. In some cases maybe our involvement didn’t result in tangible changes, but the city and WRC were able to initiate dialogue between unions and management, and work to resolve the issues.
SPC: Where would you like to see the sweatfree movement 10 years from today?
FY: In 10 years, all public entities in the United States should have adopted a sweatfree policy and are committed to enforcement, and there is no sweatshop in the United States and no sweatshop supplying any public entity in the United States. I think that’s doable.
SPC: How do we get there?
FY: I understand the autonomy issue among all the cities and states, which leads to all the different policies and rules, and something like the General Service Administration (a federal agency) won’t work at the city and state level. But maybe an organization like the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium can play a more central role in bringing harmony to movement, especially in cooperative purchasing, and provide some motivation to get other public entities onboard.
One positive step was creating the database. That can be a very useful tool if it’s being maintained and updated on a regular basis. The other thing is if the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium can develop cooperative purchasing capacities that can drive cost down. Because especially now public entities are trying to drive down cost by working with purchasing cooperatives such as US Communities and NASPO (the National Association of State Procurement Officials), and also trying to conduct more innovative ways to conduct business to save money. Cooperative contracting capability can be a big motivator.
By Robert J.S. Ross, PhD
The building collapse at the Rana Plaza garment factories in Savar, Bangladesh, has become the largest loss of life in an industrial accident yet recorded; nine days after the collapse Bangladeshi media reported the death toll had climbed over 500 with hundreds more workers still trapped or unaccounted or fighting for their lives in hospitals. Five garment factories occupied the eight-story building, which had permits for only five stories. On Tuesday April 23, the owner was warned about cracks in the building. The shops on the lower floor did not open on Wednesday morning; but the factory owners ordered their workers to go into the building to work.
In addition to the unprecedented number of deaths, the number of injured (about 1,000) and their terrible suffering have moved sympathetic observers around the globe. This collapse follows the fire at Tazreen factory last year, which killed 112 workers, and a two-decade history of repeated fires and building collapses. Bangladeshi families and their friends around the world mourn, but have also expressed tremendous anger with demonstrations and marches.
The factories supplied a wide group of European and North American brands and retailers. These apparently include JC Penney; Cato Fashions; Benetton; Primark, the low-cost British store chain, Wal-Mart, Mango, C&A, Kik, the German discounter. The building owner, an official in the ruling party, the Awami League, was arrested Monday as were, earlier, a number of the factory owners and engineers who approved the (deficient) plans.
This horrific moment may mark the end of impunity for building and factory owners in Bangladesh. Previous disasters, including the fire last November that cost 112 lives and a building collapse in 2005, which killed 64 people, have seen no criminal judgments against owners.
The historic loss of life may also occasion some strategic rethinking among the world’s advocates for better labor standards. Clearly much attention should be focused on the ability of the Bangladesh state to enforce its own and improved labor and safety standards. With inordinate influence on government policy (as many as 10% of Parliament members own garment factories) this is not a small undertaking. And just as clearly, the pious assertions in companies’ self-described codes of conduct are failing to prevent production in deathtrap factories. In an ongoing study at Clark University, every high mortality garment factory fire in Bangladesh since 2001 has buyers with detailed codes of conduct.
Buyers, especially those with collective clout, like public entities, can add to the pressure on the firms that purchase goods in Bangladesh by noting in their criteria for purchasing whether the suppliers—once they have disclosed Bangladeshi factories as locations of production—have signed on to such initiatives as the Joint Memorandum of Understanding on Fire and Building Safety. This MOU specifies standards, protects workers’ rights to examine and complain about problems and funds remediation. Wal-Mart and the Gap have refused to sign-on; PVH Corp. has agreed.
We are thankful to many people who have donated generously since we announced our fundraising campaign in early November. But we are a small organization with a big challenge and need all help we can get. Can you donate? Here is our donation page. This is the perfect time to give to the Consortium. For a limited time your contribution will be matched dollar for dollar by a challenge grant from the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation. Do you want nine more reasons to donate? Here is our Top10 list.
The sweatfree movement is growing in both the United States and Europe. This webinar features leading public agencies in sweatfree procurement on both continents: the City of Portland, Oregon, the South East Norway Health Authority, and the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment in Norway. The presenters are experts in sustainable public procurement and implementation of supply chain labor standards. They will highlight the nuts and bolts labor compliance practices, from bid documents to corrective action plans. For more information and to join the webinar please contact us.
By Michele Reale
As the end of the year approaches, we look back at the year that has gone by and everything that we have accomplished. We also start to look ahead at the new and exciting possibilities for the upcoming year.
The Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium has had many accomplishments so far this year. Specifically, since the last newsletter was issued, we welcomed the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico as a member and are pleased to have their input and support. In addition, the
Consortium’s database, Sweatfree Linkup!, continues to be populated with more information and interest in its use expands. The database is a valuable tool for entities looking to purchase sweatfree products because it makes the supply chain transparent.
The Consortium also received another grant from the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation. This is the second year that the Cohen Foundation has generously agreed to support the Consortium’s efforts and we are thankful for their support. In addition, the Cohen Foundation has agreed to match any donations made to the Consortium before June 30, 2013. Therefore, the Consortium has kicked off a fundraising campaign. If you have already donated, thank you! If you are interested in supporting the work of the Consortium, please visit the Consortium’s website and donation page.
On December 6, 2012, the Consortium will be holding its next general meeting. This is a chance for members of the Consortium, and those interested in learning more about the Consortium, to participate in educational programs. This meeting is especially exciting because the presenters will be both from the United States and Europe. It will offer a unique opportunity for a sharing of ideas on sweatfree purchasing at a global level. I hope that you can participate. More information can be obtained by contacting Bjorn Claeson via e-mail or by telephone at 207-262-7277.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those involved with the Consortium for all of their efforts towards making sweatfree purchasing the norm. I would also like to invite anyone interested in this effort to consider joining the Consortium or making a donation to the Consortium’s fundraising campaign. Your support is greatly needed and appreciated. As always, please contact me if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions to help the Consortium.
The South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority, the largest public procurer in the health sector in Norway, has expressed support for 22 fired unionized workers at Mölnlycke Health Care in Thailand. Last year the Health Authority purchased US$6.5 million worth of hospital gowns and other products from Mölnlycke Health Care.
The Thai Industrial Relations Committee (IRC) has called on the company to reinstate the fired workers. While the company says that they were striking illegally, the workers say they simply approached management to request an explanation for why other union leaders had been punished by management with suspension orders and forced to transfers to jobs for which they were not properly trained. The IRC, which determined there as no strike, is a national tripartite institution comprised of employers, workers and government representatives to resolve industrial relations conflicts in Thailand.
“We have spoken to Mölnlycke and made clear that we want them to comply with the IRC's decision,” says Grete Solli, the head of Corporate Social Responsibility in the procurement department of the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority, on the authority website. “Alternatively, we will not be able to enter into a new contract with Mölnlycke because of our doubts about their compliance with the International Labour Organization’s core conventions.”
The South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority also plans to inspect glove factories in Malaysia. Production of latex and nitrile gloves for hospital personnel carries a high risk of supply chain labor violations, they believe.
“We require labor and human rights compliance in our glove contracts and we plan to carry out inspections to verify compliance,” says Ms. Solli.
The Worker Rights Consortium has found labor rights violations at the Star, S.A. factory in El Progreso, Honduras. Owned by Gildan Activewear, the Star factory makes products sold to public agencies. According to the WRC, Star also produces collegiate licensed apparel for Adidas, Nike, All Team, VF Imagewear Inc., New Agenda, and J America.
According to the WRC investigation the Star management failed over a period of time to take action against employees who have harassed and intimidated union members and actively colluded with those employees. As a result, there is a climate of fear in the factory that prevents the free exercise of associational rights. The WRC has outlined findings and recommendations to Gildan, and has encouraged the company to meet with the Central American Gildan union network. Gildan has pledged to take corrective action.
In September, 2012, the Consortium participated in a lively European-wide forum on strategies, policies, and practical solutions in the field of sustainable public procurement and public procurement of innovation. Purchasers, policy makers, and other experts from all levels of government across Europe, and some from beyond Europe, participated in the Eco Procura Conference, organized by ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability and hosted by the City of Malmö, Sweden.
The conference helped bring to focus a wealth of best practices in the field of “social procurement,” illustrating different approaches to monitoring and verifying labor compliance in the procurement supply chain. These approaches range from requiring bidder declarations, labels and certifications, self-assessment questionnaires, and factory inspections. Here are some, among many, highlights:
The LandMark Project is an excellent source for additional information about what these European cities and others are doing to promote fair working conditions in global supply chains.
Interview by Annie Caitlyn Devine
Stacey Foreman, Sustainable Procurement Coordinator, City of Portland, Oregon
The Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium (the Consortium) talked with Stacey Foreman who manages the City of Portland’s Sustainable Procurement Program and serves on the Consortium’s Program and Compliance Committee. Stacey is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Associate and holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Management and Policy.
“One major reason that Portland is a member of the Consortium is that we really value the collaborative aspect of this work,” says Stacey. “Portland is pretty small, so our voice isn’t very loud on a national scale unless we are working cooperatively with other entities that are trying to reach the same goals. Being a part of the Consortium also enhances the efficiency of each member: So for instance, if one public entity figures out how to develop a particular form or policy, they can share those strategies with other members and we can all learn together.”
SPC: Can you give us an overview of your role as a sustainable procurement coordinator? How did you get into this line of work, and what sorts of tasks does it involve on a day-to-day basis?
SF: The purpose of my job is to provide the resources and research needed to support City Bureaus in complying with Portland’s sustainable procurement policies. This type of support involves product research, writing “green” specifications for solicitation documents, keeping up-to-date on new third party standards and eco-labels, understanding the potential human and environmental impacts of various products or processes, “green” contract management, and providing online resources for our employees so they have all this information available when they need it. The variety of products and services I research means this job is never dull.
I got into this work because I have an interest and background in environmental policy and science. I fell into my current job through an internship and I’ve been doing it ever since.
SPC: Could you describe the role of Portland’s Sustainable Procurement Policy and the Sweatshop Free Procurement Policy? What are its primary goals?
SF: The overall goal of these policies is to be able to meet the responsibilities we have as a city in terms of providing services to our residents, but to do so in a way that minimizes negative environmental and social impacts. Within those overarching policy goals, we have a variety of more specific goals or mandates, such as recycled content paper product mandates or product ingredient transparency goals.
SPC: Tell us how you are reaching those goals. What kinds of strategies do you use? Have you changed them over time?
SF: Our strategy revolves around making sure that our various contracts reflect Portland’s sustainable and sweatfree policies. In addition to including “green” or sweatshop free requirements in product or service specifications, we find that it is useful to continue to work with contractors and City end-users throughout the contract term. I would say that this last part, what I call “green” contract management, has changed in that I spend more time on this now than when I first started.
SPC: What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced, either as an individual or as an organization? How are you addressing these challenges?
SF: There are a variety of challenges. One of the most common is the general confusion in the marketplace around what is a “green” product/service. There are some standards, but they are specific to certain products/services and are fairly limited compared to the variety of products and services the City buys. But then you mix in the “greenwashing” taking place, the fact that some commodities may have competing “green” standards, and that technologies are changing, and it gets messy pretty quick. This ties into a challenge around transparency, whether regarding product ingredients or where a product is made, because if you can’t reference a standard or certification, then you have to make a decision based on the information you can get from the manufacturer or public information sources. One of the added complexities to the transparency challenge is that because a City contract is often with a distributer, we don’t have a lot of leverage to request information from the manufacturer.
We address many of these challenges through cooperative work with other public agencies and interested stakeholders. The more we work together, the more we can build clear expectations and affect change. This is why we participate in multi-stakeholder “green” standard development processes and why we network and share our experiences with other agencies.
SPC: What are some of the successes that you have had so far?
SF: Each year we incorporate “green” into new product or service areas, so I’d consider that a success. It’s not just about recycled content anymore. Because of the City of Portland’s and other agency’s efforts over the years, we are able to tackle more complex issues like sweatshop free procurement.
SPC: In general do you think suppliers are more or less compliant with Portland’s sustainable and sweatfree policies than when you started this work? Have you witnessed any suppliers change their practices in response to these policies?
SF: I don’t know that the suppliers are necessarily more compliant, but there are definitely more vendors out there providing a larger variety of environmentally preferable products. Over time, I think we will be able to say the same for “sweatfree” products. Looking at office supplies, for instance, it used to be the focus was on recycled content paper, but now you can get a variety of office supplies that are refillable/reusable, energy efficient, non-toxic, readily recyclable, or compostable.
SPC: What would you say are some of the most pressing issues facing the sustainable and sweatfree procurement movements?
SF: I would say that the top three issues are probably awareness (among agencies and vendors), transparency, and verification of claims.
SPC: Why is Portland a member of the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium? How can the Consortium best help you reach your sweatfree goals?
SF: One major reason that Portland is a member of the Consortium is that we really value the collaborative aspect of this work. Portland is pretty small, so our voice isn’t very loud on a national scale unless we are working cooperatively with other entities that are trying to reach the same goals. Being a part of the Consortium also enhances the efficiency of each member: So for instance, if one public entity figures out how to develop a particular form or policy, they can share those strategies with other members and we can all learn together.
SPC: Do you think that the citizens of Portland are aware of what Procurement Services does? Is it important that they are aware of this work?
SF: Awareness is pretty limited to certain groups of Portland residents: Contractors and vendors are obviously very familiar with us and very involved with these issues, especially since we have some really good outreach programs here in our department that try to work with them. The same can be said for many of our local environmental and labor advocacy groups, which are comprised of citizens that are particularly interested in sustainable and sweatfree initiatives. But when you look past those groups, there is probably not as much awareness among Portland residents about what Procurement Services does. I think it would be valuable to have more residents become aware of what we do—after all, public procurement professionals are stewards of public money.
SPC: Where would you like to see the sustainable and sweatfree movements five years from today? Ten years from today?
I would like to see transparency become commonplace so that it is easier to communicate with vendors about sustainability and sweatfree issues. I also hope that there will be more consensus among public agencies so that sustainable and sweatfree policies are not seen as something “special” or “extra” that you have to do, rather, it’s just how we do business.
By Michele Reale
Welcome to the first issue of the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium's newsletter.
I am very excited to be writing this letter as it marks the inaugural issue of the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium’s newsletter. This newsletter will be issued periodically throughout the year and will keep you updated on issues affecting sweatfree purchasing and the activities of the Consortium.
Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Michele Reale and I am an Associate Attorney with the New York State Office of General Services. Among other things, the Office of General Services establishes statewide centralized contracts for apparel items. So, the issues that the Consortium deals with are very applicable to my job. I am beginning my second term on the Consortium’s Board of Directors, as well as my second term as President of the Board.
Earlier this month, the Consortium held its second annual membership meeting. This meeting allowed me the opportunity to brag about the work that the Consortium has done in the past year. These activities includes finalizing its 501(c)(3) status, approving complaint forms, investigation guidelines, a sweatfree purchasing guide and other membership development documents. We welcomed the Cities of Los Angeles and Ithaca as members and launched the Consortium’s database-Sweatfree LinkUp! It has been an active year and the Consortium has taken great strides! The meeting was very well attended and included a number of valuable presentations on a variety of topics including a recent investigation into an apparel factory requested by the City and County of San Francisco.
The support of the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation and a number of individual donors as well as the work of volunteers on our board and committees have been indispensable to our progress
Already this fiscal year, the Board of Directors has approved a Sweatfree Model Policy which governmental entities can use as a starting point for developing their own sweatfree policies. In the coming months, we will be working on the Consortium’s second annual report and looking to add information to the Sweatfree LinkUp! database and increase use of the database.
I look forward to these exciting activities and the continued advancement of the Consortium. I hope that you enjoy this newsletter. I also invite those of you who are not members of the Consortium to join us and take advantage of the many benefits of membership. Information on joining can be found here on the website.
The Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium is proud to announce Sweatfree LinkUp! This is a new database of apparel factories, manufacturers, and vendors in the government procurement supply chain. It is designed to help government entities buy from suppliers that are transparent about where and how the clothes they sell are produced and take effective measures to protect labor rights in their supply chains.
“We are excited about the potential to bring together industry partners committed to sweatfree production and government buyers looking for code-compliant suppliers through Sweatfree LinkUp!,” said Michele Reale, President of the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium and Associate Attorney at the New York State Office of General Services. “We invite all stakeholders, including workers, manufacturers, vendors, and government buyers to learn how they can use this new tool to create demand and supply for sweatfree products.”
Sweatfree LinkUp! builds on the pioneering work of several U.S. cities and states that have obtained information about factories that make the uniforms and other apparel they buy in order to evaluate compliance with sweatfree standards and regulations. The database helps to make this information accessible and useful to a wide range of stakeholders, while protecting product information that industry partners consider sensitive and confidential.
At launch time, June 5, 2012, Sweatfree LinkUp! included information about 22 vendors and 47 manufacturers, as well as 106 factories that make the products they sell. Vendors, manufacturers, and public entities do not make any claims about labor compliance to the Consortium when submitting supply chain information. However, in making information accessible—information that otherwise may be hidden—they encourage the connections that support good conditions and the scrutiny that helps to rectify violations and improve conditions where needed.
All stakeholders in the supply chain can use the database in order to “LinkUp!” For example, government buyers can search for existing contracts for certain products and contact the contracting agency about piggyback possibilities. Vendors can connect with government entities interested in buying products made in decent working conditions. Workers in factories listed in the database can discover who buys what they make and, if needed, begin to remedy workplace violations by submitting the online worker rights complaint form.
By linking supply chain participants we hope to foster the collaboration that can leverage better conditions for workers. We invite you to take a look and see what connections you can make.
By Eric Dirnbach
Sweatshop working conditions have long been documented in the global apparel supply chain, including in factories that make public sector uniforms. Recently an investigation of a factory in the Dominican Republic that supplied uniforms to the City and County of San Francisco uncovered many problems, including sexual and verbal harassment, underpayment of wages, and occupational safety violations (see the Labor Rights Hotspot in this issue of the Consortium’s newsletter). Many cities and states have “sweatfree” procurement laws that require decent working conditions in the factories that supply their apparel, and the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium was formed in 2010 to assist them in this effort. The Consortium facilitates the sharing of information, resources, and best practices to increase the effectiveness of sweatfree purchasing.
Many public entities have asked for better guidance in drafting sweatfree procurement laws to ensure their maximum effectiveness. The Consortium recently took an important step forward toward this goal. The newly elected Board of Directors approved a new Sweatfree Model Policy. The result of many months of research and discussions with experts and stakeholders, this Policy is a recommendation of language for cities and states to consider when crafting their sweatfree procurement laws and rules. The Policy was drafted by Professor Robert Stumberg and his students, T. Lloyd Grove and Lindsey Scannell, of the Harrison Institute for Public Law at the Georgetown University Law School. They worked as consultants to the Consortium, with the support of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.
The Georgetown advisors started with a previous model policy that had long been promoted by SweatFree Communities, a national coalition of labor rights groups, and reframed its philosophical and legal foundation. Here is a summary from the Findings section of the new model policy:
Thus given the poor labor conditions that prevail in global apparel production, public entities can only protect open and fair competition by using sweatfree criteria to ensure labor law violators do not benefit from public contracts. In other words, the primary intent of sweatfree procurement is to preserve the integrity of the procurement process, which will ensure decent working conditions and protect workers’ rights. The converse is also true: decent working conditions in the supply chain helps ensure open and fair competition for public contracts.
The Policy also features an expanded section on compliance with the International Labor Organization (ILO) core conventions, outlined in the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, on freedom of association and collective bargaining, and bans on discrimination, child labor and forced labor. The new Policy provides more clarity on how contractors should meet ILO standards, providing specific examples of non-compliant behavior. There is also more comprehensive language on how public entities could implement a living wage policy for factory workers, including the possibility of utilizing a “wage ladder”, where wages are gradually increased over time. An ongoing challenge is to reconcile the ILO Conventions with local law in various countries that have weaker standards, for example, on freedom of association. The new Policy handles this issue by requiring as much compliance as possible. Contractors must honor the ILO standards by “permitting all activities related to freedom of association that are not prohibited by domestic law, and avoiding practices that violate international standards…unless a practice is mandated by domestic law.” The Consortium will continue to work on this issue to find ways to address problems in countries without freedom of association.
The Consortium will make this Policy available to public entities that are considering sweatfree procurement. We hope it will help to harmonize standards and procedural requirements, increase compliance with labor standards, improve working conditions in the supply chain, and ensure fair competition for public apparel contracts.
Eric Dirnbach is the Vice President of the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium
An independent monitoring organization has found egregious labor rights violations at a factory that makes U.S. inmate clothing in the Dominican Republic. The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) reports sexual and verbal harassment by top management and supervisors, underpayment of wages, occupational safety violations, and other problems at I.T.I.C. Apparel, a supplier of California based Robinson Textiles.
The WRC conducted the investigation of I.T.I.C. Apparel on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco in 2011. The year before, San Francisco had awarded a two-year inmate clothing contract to Robinson Textiles. In compliance with the San Francisco sweatfree ordinance, Robinson Textiles provided the City and County with the name of its subcontractor, I.T.I.C. Apparel, and agreed to allow factory inspections to ensure compliance with San Francisco’s factory code of conduct, which establishes standards regarding wages and hours, freedom of association, harassment and abuse, health and safety, and other areas.
The WRC conducted a full investigation of I.T.IC. Apparel, including offsite worker interviews; review of workers’ paystubs; factory visits including a health and safety inspection; interviews with the owner, managers, and supervisors; review of financial statements, accident reports, and legal documents; and collection and testing of drinking water samples.
While Robison Textiles initially indicated to San Francisco that it was pushing I.T.I.C. Apparel to implement WRC recommendations to remedy violations there is no evidence that the factory has done so. Instead, Robinson Textiles has chosen to let its San Francisco contract expire. In a letter to the Consortium, San Francisco’s Sweatfree Procurement Advisory Group notes that they are “troubled that Robinson Textiles chose not to resolve the workplace violations of its subcontractor.” Like other apparel contractors to San Francisco, Robinson Textiles had signed a Compliance Plan in which it agreed to require subcontractors to comply with the Sweatfree Contracting Ordinance and to take “good faith effort to achieve additional levels of compliance.”
San Francisco reported on its engagement with Robinson Textiles at the Consortium’s annual membership meeting on June 5, 2012, and noted that it is considering amending its Sweatfree Contracting Ordinance to provide for longer term contracts that offer greater incentive to contractors to remedy violations.
The Consortium has invited Robinson Textiles to submit any updated reports on labor compliance at I.T.I.C. Apparel. That invitation stands.
The WRC investigation of I.T.I.C. Apparel is here.
Interview by Annie Caitlyn Devine Sorting information for Sweatfree LinkUp: Susan Rebello and Monette McGuire, City of Madison Purchasing Services
The Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium (the Consortium) talked with Monette McGuire, Buyer for the City of Madison, Wisconsin. Monette served on the Consortium’s Board of Directors for two years, 2010-2012, and is currently active on the Consortium’s Program and Compliance Committee. Her work in procurement spans 23 years in public service and has led her to assume various roles, including Badger Bioneer (2010) and past president of the Wisconsin Association of Public Purchasers, a chapter of the National Institute of Government Purchasing (NIGP).
“The question becomes,” says Monette, “do real added costs outweigh the value of investing in community, environment and humanity? … In the end, do I mind that it adds to the complexity and volume of my work? Not a bit. Because I think that good stewardship of taxpayer’s money involves investing in these priorities for the long term."
SPC: Could you briefly describe the role of the City of Madison Purchasing Services?
MM: Purchasing is basically the central authority within the organization that establishes the standards for the procurement of all goods and services. Because open and fair competition is the cornerstone of public procurement, our role in Purchasing is to ensure that the expenditure of public funds is conducted ethically and responsibly, in a manner that protects the integrity of the competitive bidding process and garners public trust. I think that one of the more delicate and important obligations that this office assumes is balancing goals of equality and efficiency. This involves guaranteeing impartiality and fairness in the competition process while ensuring economic value and securing the best product or service for the organization.
SPC: Can you give us an overview of the specific role you play as a buyer? What sorts of tasks does your job involve on a day-to-day basis?
MM: All the functions and activities that I perform on a daily basis revo