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Support Grows for Anti-Sweatshop Legislation

August 25, 2006  |  Share


 Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act

This bill was originally written by the National Labor Committee with the help of Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and the United Steelworkers of America. In the summer of 2006 the bill was introduced into the Senate by Senator Dorgan and into the House by Rep. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

Senate Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid, Congressman Bernie Sanders, AFL-CIO and others Endorse Anti-sweatshop Bill

For the first time, anti-sweatshop legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress which will prohibit the import, export or sale of sweatshop goods in the U.S.  Up to this point, it has been the companies that have demanded and won all sorts of enforceable laws--intellectual property and copyright laws backed up by sanctions--to defend their corporate trademarks, labels and products.  Yet, the corporations have long said that extending similar laws to protect the human rights of the 16-year-old girl in Bangladesh who sews the garment would be "an impediment to free trade."  Under this distorted sense of values, the label is protected, but not the human being, the worker who makes the product.

On Thursday, June 8, 2006, in what we believe will be looked back upon as a watershed moment Senator Byron Dorgan introduced Senate Bill 3485, "The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act" which will, for the first time hold corporations legally accountable to respect human and worker rights by prohibiting the import, sale, or export of sweatshop goods in the U.S. Products made under conditions which violate the core ILO labor rights standards (no child labor, no forced labor, freedom of association, right to organize and bargain collectively and to decent working conditions) will be banned.

On June 16, 2006, Representative Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, introduced a similar bill (H.R. 5635) into the House of Representatives. It was co-sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Jones (D-OH), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME), Rep. Edward Pastor (D-AZ), Rep. Timothy Ryan (D-OH), Rep. Ted Strickland (D-OH).

Click here to read the results of a Harris Poll showing that the majority of Americans support legislation protecting the rights of workers in the global economy.

Click here to read the Senate Bill 3485.

Click here to read the House Bill 5635.

Click here to read Senator Dorgan's press release.

Listen to Representative Sherrod Brown discuss the legislation on "Maine Things Considered". Click here to listen to the podcast/mp3.

Click here to read the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000


2006 Co-sponsors  

SENATE (S.3485):

Sen. Robert Byrd (WV)
Sen. Russell Feingold (WI) 
Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ) 
Sen. Harry Reid (NV)
Sen. John D. Rockefeller (WV)

HOUSE (H.R.5635):

Rep. Brian Baird (WA-3)
Rep. Rick Boucher (VA-9)
Rep. Ben Cardin (MD-3)
Rep. Russ Carnahan (MO-3)
Rep. Julia Carson (IN-7)
Rep. Ben Chandler (KY-6)
Rep. Donna Christiensen (VI) 
Rep. John Conyers (MI-14)
Rep. Jerry Costello (IL-12)
Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-7)
Rep. Danny Davis (IL-7)
Rep. Lincoln Davis (TN-4)
Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4) 
Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3)
Rep. Joh Dingell (MI-15)
Rep. Michael F. Doyle (PA-14)
Rep. Chet Edwards (TX-17) 
Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (TN-9) 
Rep. Frank Barney (MA-4) 
Rep. Bart Gordon (Tn-6)
Rep. Al Green (TX-9)
Rep. Gene Green (TX-29)
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-7)
Rep. Alcee Hastings (FL-23) 
Rep. Brian Higgins (NY-27) 
Rep. Tim Holden (PA-17)
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL-2)
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18)
Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (OH-11)
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-9)
Rep. Dale Kildeee (OH-9)
Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (MI-5)
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (OH-10)
Rep. Sandy Levin (MI-12)
Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3)
Rep. Jim Marshall (GA-3)
Rep. Michael R. McNulty (NY-21)
Rep. Michael H. Michaud (ME-2)
Rep. George Miller (CA-7)
Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (WV-1)
Rep. Jim Oberstar (MN-8)
Rep. Dave Obey (WI-7)
Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-8)
Rep. Ed Pastor (AZ-4)
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, II (WV-3)
Rep. Mike Ross (AR-4)
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2)
Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-17)
Rep. John Salazar (CO-3) 
Rep. Bernard Sanders (VT)
Rep. Jan Schadowsky (IL-9)
Rep. Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) 
Rep. Hilda L. Solis (CA-32)
Rep. Fortney Pete Stark (CA-13)
Rep. Ted Strickland (OH-6)
Rep. Bart Stupak (MI-1)
Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-2)
Rep. John Tierney (MA-6)
Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (IN-1)
Rep. Robert Wexler (FL-19)



On August 8, 2006, the AFL-CIO endorsed the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act, stating, "The AFL-CIO fully supports this bill and will work to secure support for the legislation among members of Congress. We will engage in education campaigns and take other action to work towards passage of this critical legislation." Click here to read about it on their website. 


The United Steelworkers union has taken the lead on this legislation. Click here to read about it on their website.



What People Are Saying About the Bill: 

"The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act will for the first time hold corporations legally accountable to respect human and worker rights by prohibiting the import, sale, or export of sweatshop goods in the U.S. Products made under conditions which violate the core ILO labor rights standards (no child labor, no forced labor, freedom of association, right to organize and bargain collectively and to decent working conditions) will be banned." -- Jim Hightower

"Finally, legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that attacks the sweatshop exploitation of workers across the globe. This is the bill we have been waiting on!" -- Charlie Averill, Retired Steelworker

"...This COULD be the start of an economy based on slavery being banished. ... Will the UK follow suit, will our MP's stand up and be counted on this issue?" -- 
Anita Roddick, Founder of the Body Shop

"It offers a positive, proactive alternative to the current race to the bottom in the global sweatshop economy, one based on full respect for workers' human rights. Our goal is to create economic incentives for both corporations and governments to raise standards and protect workers' rights around the world, as well as here in the United States, where workers struggle every day to exercise their rights at the workplace."  -- AFL-CIOExecutive Council.

UK Citizens Get on Board:

Citizens start requesting that the UK also help protect the rights of workers around the world.

Below are two letters published in the Independent on October 11, 2006 in response to a program onChannel 4 which, along with the NLC, exposed conditions at the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh.

Forty million textile workers deserve legal protection

Sir: We must put an end to child labour in the garment industry (report, 11 October). Corporations have won legal pro tection for their trademarks, labels, logos and products. However, no laws have been extended to protect the fundamental human, women's and worker rights of the teenager who made the product. Voluntary corporate codes of conduct can never replace legally enforceable rights.

I urge the European Parliament and the EU Commission to immediately begin discussions leading to anti-sweatshop legislation which would hold corporations accountable to respect core United Nations/International Labour Organisation worker rights standards - no child labour, no forced labour, freedom of association, the right to organise and to bargain collectively, and decent working conditions.

We owe such legislation to the 30 to 40 million garment and textile workers, mostly young women, who are locked in sweatshops across the developing world. We owe this to working people in the UK and Europe, who are drawn further into the race to the bottom in the global economy, in which corporations are pitting workers in Europe against desperately poor workers in other countries, competing over who will accept the lowest pay, the least benefits and the most miserable conditions.

The UK and EU were right to grant duty-free market access to garments made in Bangladesh, which is among the least developed countries. Since 2000, Bangladesh's garment exports to Europe have risen an average of 8 per cent a year, reaching €3.6bn last year.

But not one penny of our tariff breaks has reached the garment workers in Bangladesh, whose wages have actually fallen over the last 12 years. Duty-free access to the UK and EU markets must be linked to concrete and measurable improvements in respect for human, women's and worker rights and in real wages. Otherwise, our tariff breaks just flow into the pockets of the multinationals and the factory owners in Bangladesh.



Sir: Your article regarding Channel Four's exposé on the use of child workers highlights a fundamental problem in corporate Britain. At the moment, people are left in the dark about big business's impacts on suppliers, employees, communities and the environment until a journalist or campaigning group exposes corporate malpractice. Such issues come as a nasty shock to shareholders and others who care about responsible business behaviour.

On 19 October MPs have a golden opportunity to vote for measures that would lift this veil of secrecy. ActionAid has backed amendments to the Companies Bill which, for the first time, will legally require all medium and large companies to report honestly and comprehensively on their social and environmental impacts. MPs must take this chance to prevent British companies from concealing practices in poor countries that would never be tolerated in our own back yard.





YOU CAN HELP! Please get your local and/or national religious, labor, human rights, student or community organization to endorse this legislation. This is part of a national outreach and popular education campaign to take back our economy and remake it with a human face.

Also, contact your congressional representatives to let them know how you feel about the importance of protecting the human rights of workers around the world.




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