The Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium was established in 2003 by citizens across the United States. They demanded that their representatives in government ensure that public contracts not reward sweatshops and instead incentivize sweatfree apparel supply chains. Several public officials took up the task of responsible stewardship of taxpayer money. Thirteen cities and three states joined with labor experts as members of the Consortium, and committed to using collective purchasing power to end apparel industry sweatshop conditions.
The SPC builds on continuous efforts to use the lever of public procurement to create the conditions for decent working conditions in the global apparel industry. Following globalization of the industry, efforts to align public purchasing of apparel with norms of decency have included citizen-guided actions by counties, religious organizations, and the national government.
1997: The City of Pittsburgh, multiple counties of New Jersey, and Catholic Church archdioceses of Newark and North Olmstead publicly commit to not purchase apparel from sweatshops.
1999: The United States government issues Executive Order 13126 (1999): “It shall be the policy of the United States Government…to purchase no products made by forced or indentured child labor.”
2000: The Worker Rights Consortium is founded by university administrators, students, and international labor rights experts. An independent monitoring organization, the WRC assists universities with the enforcement of their labor rights codes of conduct.
2001: “The State of Maine requires that all bidders seeking contracts to supply the State of Maine with goods ...Comply with all applicable wage, health, labor, environmental and safety laws, legal guarantees of freedom of association...”
2002: The State of New Jersey requires procurement of sweatfree apparel: “…Vendors and their contractors and sub-contractors shall adapt a neutrality position with respect to attempts to organize by their employees…Apparel Production workers…are provided a safe and healthy work environment, and a work environment free of discrimination…Apparel contracts shall only be issued to contractors… that provide non-poverty compensation…”
2003: Sweatfree Communities is founded by local activists in Maine, Minnesota, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin. Sweatfree Communities is a network for local action against sweatshops.
2004: California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Schools, Milwaukee, and Pennsylvania adopt sweatfree procurement laws.
2005: The Sweatfree Bay Area Coalition persuades San Francisco to adopt a sweatfree procurement ordinance. The state of Illinois, city of Madison, and schools district of Milwaukee adopt sweatfree policies.
2006: The governor of Maine John Baldacci proposes “A Governors’ Coalition for Sweatfree Procurement and Workers Rights” to governors throughout the United States.
2007: The state of Pennsylvania convenes states, cities, and labor rights advocates to plan the formation of a sweatfree consortium. In Texas, the city of Austin adopts a sweatfree procurement ordinance.
2008: The Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) is the first national religious denomination to establish a policy of sweatfree purchasing. Elsewhere, a 40-member strong sweatfree coalition convinces Portland to establish a sweatfree purchasing ordinance, and a high school student coalition persuades Vermont to establish a sweatfree purchasing law.
2009: The State of New York adopts a sweatfree procurement policy and joins the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium.
2010: The Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium is formally founded. Seattle adopts a sweatfree procurement policy and joins the Consortium. Los Angeles and San Francisco contract the WRC as the independent monitor of their apparel supply chains.
2011: The Los Angeles city council votes unanimously to join the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium
2012: SPC public membership expands to fourteen cities and three states, now including: Ashland, OR; Austin, TX; Berkeley, CA; Chicago, IL; Ithaca, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Madison, WI; Milwaukee, WI; Olympia, WA; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Seattle, WA; University City, MO and the states of Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania.
2013: The City of Madison, WI, in consultation with the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium, develops a cooperative "piggyback" contract to procure sweatfree apparel for the Fire, Metro Transit, Police and other municipal operations agencies. The innovative contract is designed for multiple cities and government agencies to purchase together and jointly cover the cost of independent labor-rights monitoring, independent monitors to vet bidders, and disclose not only names and locations of factories but also violations of labor standards and actions undertaken to remediate them.
2014: “Turning a Blind Eye? Respecting Human Rights in Government Purchasing” is published by the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR). Written by the Harrison Institute for Public Law at Georgetown University (Harrison Institute), the report identified more than a dozen gaps in federal human rights policies for procurement.
2015: Electronics Watch launches in Europe. An independent monitoring organization, Electronics Watch links civil society organizations active in locations producing electronics with public sector buyers to ensure sweatfree procurement of electronics. Read more: www.electronicswatch.org. In the United States, the city of Madison replicates its first sweatfree cooperative contract for uniform rentals.
2016: The International Learning Lab on Public Procurement and Human Rights is established to network government procurement agencies and human rights monitors, by ICAR, the Harrison Institute, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, with the support of the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium on apparel procurement.
2017: Los Angeles and San Francisco begin sharing reports on labor rights at their apparel supplier factories, produced by independent monitoring of the WRC, on the SPC Sweatfree LinkUp! database.