Berkeley, CA City Council Takes Up Anti-Sweatshop Legislation

On Tuesday, August 18, the Berkeley City Council will discuss legislation to ensure that the millions of dollars the city spends annually on purchasing items like fire fighters’ uniforms, computers for city offices or food in city hospitals, are not supporting sweatshops.

The Berkeley sweatfree legislation includes a sweat-free code of conduct to be signed by all city contractors, subcontractors and vendors. The code of conduct mandates that these companies’ workers are paid a living wage, adjusted by labor market; afforded the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining; and provided with safe working conditions and a non-discriminatory environment. The code of conduct also bans child labor and would maximize purchasing of Fair Trade, organic and locally produced goods. Advocates for the legislation are also pushing for funding for enforcement by the city as well as by a non-profit, independent monitor will be included in the city’s budget.

Sweatshop-free purchasing legislation has been adopted in numerous cities and states, including Illinois, Maine, Pennsylvania, Newark, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Albuquerque, as well as more than a dozen school districts (for a full list, see www.sweatfree.org/policies.shtml).

The Berkeley anti-sweatshop legislation is supported by a broad coalition of Bay Area labor, student and human rights groups, who will speak out in support of the legislation at tonight’s City Council meeting.

Berkeley Labor Commission Chair Nicholas Smith expressed his firm commitment to serious results from sweatshop legislation. "Berkeley spends millions of dollars a year. Just like Berkeley divested from apartheid, it is now demanded of this generation to take public money away from supporting the low wage/poor conditions of sweatshop labor."

Global Exchange's Valerie Orth states " We welcome Berkeley to join the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco in contributing a fair share to staffing and independent monitoring to ensure that good intentions are translated into good results."

"It's time for Berkeley to step up to the plate and put its money where its mouth is" says City Council member Kriss Worthington. "It is not enough to just do a feel good proclamation or a resolution. We must contribute financially in coalition with other cities to enforcement through an independent monitor."

UPTE President Tanya Smith joined the voice of organized labor to the community chorus demanding action. "We urge you to support a STRONG Sweat free ordinance with universal scope. It is crucial that the City put adequate money in its upcoming budget deliberations for Sweatshop monitoring."

Recently U.C. students staged several naked protests to demand the University adopt a Designated Suppliers Policy to give teeth to the University sweat-free rules. Nina Rizzo from United Students Against Sweatshops suggests: " The City of Berkeley can learn from U.C. experience by combining the Sweat-free Ordinance and the enforcement funding as one package."

The City Council will consider Sweat-free Berkeley as City Council item number # 12 tonight.

Extra info: 
CONTACTS: Valerie Orth, Global Exchange, 415-706-7796 Tanya Smith, UPTE, 510-643-3538 Nina Rizzo, United Students Against Sweatshops, 510-517-6855 Nick Smith, Labor Commission Chair, 510-375-1525