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Governor Paterson Announces New York's Membership in National Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium
New York to Develop Guidelines Requiring Agencies to End Purchases of Apparel from Manufacturers that Violate Labor Standards

Albany, NY (December 10, 2009) - Governor David A. Paterson today announced that the State of New York has joined the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium. The Consortium is a coalition of state and local governments that work together to create and enforce standards for bulk purchases. The members wish to stop buying from contractors that break labor laws by producing goods in sweatshops – a movement known as “sweatfree” procurement.

The Consortium is seeking to create a structure for state and local governments to pool resources to investigate and monitor supplier factories to ensure compliance with workplace fairness and safety standards. Numerous local governments have joined the Consortium, as have the states of Pennsylvania and Maine.

As an initial step as a member of the Consortium, the Governor directed the commissioners of the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Office of General Services (OGS) to develop a set of guidelines for state agencies and public authorities to follow to ensure that the garments, uniforms, textiles, footwear and other apparel that they purchase from manufacturers or private contractors are not made in violation of labor standards.

“State government must be held to the highest moral and ethical standards, especially when public dollars are involved, which is why I am so proud of New York State’s recent inclusion in the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium,” said Governor Paterson. “Sweatshops are a scourge on societies across the globe; they’re bad for business and even worse for workers. I will do everything I can to ensure that state government funds are not used to support sweatshop conditions.”

“Governor Paterson took the right move today to make sure his state, like mine, ceases procurement with companies that rely on sweatshops,” said Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell. “Just as American workers expect the government to that ensure basic worker protections are in place in American workplaces, our taxpayers expect us to ensure that workers in other countries are not forced to make goods for our states in unsafe or oppressive working conditions.”

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome the State of New York to the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium, which is a crucial tool in creating and maintaining workplace fairness and safety in our global economy,” said the Honorable John E. Baldacci, Governor of the State of Maine.  “By bringing together states, local governments and other public agencies, the Consortium can help us all make sweatfree purchasing in a more effective and cost-efficient manner.”

“Sweatshop” conditions in the apparel industry are well-documented and undercut efforts by ethical businesses in New York State to compete in the global economy. Contractors that use sweatshop labor are often able to underbid responsible contractors that pay fair wages and maintain humane work environments and conditions. This places law-abiding contractors at a competitive disadvantage, which may dissuade them from participating in the State’s procurement process. As a significant consumer in the marketplace, New York’s decision to strengthen its sweatfree procurement policies will help level the playing field for ethical businesses and create significant demand for better working conditions in the apparel industry.

At Governor Paterson’s direction, the commissioners of DOL and OGS, in consultation with other state agencies, will develop a Sweatfree Code of Conduct to ensure that the State of New York shall procure apparel and textiles from contractors that adhere to basic labor standards.

State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith said, “Having enforced the labor law on behalf of sweatshop employees, I have seen first-hand what these workers are going through. They are victims, plain and simple, of detestable employers who make them work in horrible conditions. I look forward to working with Commissioner Egan and his team to develop these extremely important standards on behalf of all state government.”

John Egan, Commissioner of the New York State Office of General Services said, “I believe that ensuring workers are provided with safe working conditions and appropriate wages is a moral imperative. Accordingly, procurements of apparel made by the State of New York should support sweatfree policies. I look forward to working with Commissioner Smith and other governmental representatives on this important project.”

“The Sweatfree Consortium is a critical step toward responsible public sector procurement,” said Bruce Raynor, President of Workers United, SEIU.  “Governor Paterson’s decision to have New York State join the Consortium marks an important victory against the sweatshop conditions that many apparel workers face each day.” 

Brian O’Shaughnessy, Executive Director of the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, celebrated the news and said, “New York joining the Consortium marks a huge victory against the sweatshop conditions that continue to plague apparel factories supplying our state. We are eager to work with OGS and DOL to enact a Sweatfree Code of Conduct for state apparel suppliers.”

“We applaud New York State for joining the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium and committing to play a leadership role in the Consortium,” said Bjorn Claeson, Executive Director of Sweatfree Communities.  “Together with other Consortium members, New York will create a sizable market for decent working conditions that will reward companies that compete on the high road in the global economy.”

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