Subsidizing Sweatshops with Maine Tax Dollars 

Federal, state and local tax dollars are being used to buy products made in sweatshops, according to a new report released today by SweatFree Communities. But, the report says, more local and state governments are adopting policies that would require government contractors to meet a set of ethical standards, and advocates are calling on elected officials to join the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium to end tax dollar support for sweatshops.  Maine officials and advocates are part of the Consortium steering committee.Report findings include child labor, obligatory pregnancy tests, firing and blacklisting of workers who support a union, poverty wages, and forced and unpaid overtime. Subsidizing Sweatshops II: How our tax dollars can foster worker rights and economic recovery rather than fuel the race to the bottom follows the groundbreaking 2008 first report.  It is based on in-depth interviews with over 100 workers in 8 factories spanning five countries who produce uniforms for public employees such as police officers and fire fighters for nine major uniform brands. Four of the case studies are newly-researched factories, while four look at what improvements have been made in factories researched for the 2008 report.Workers at Propper’s Suprema Manufacturing factory in the Dominican Republic make pants for the Maine State Police.  The workers report serious concerns about low wages, excessive production quotas, and an unhealthy working environment.  One worker was fired just days after she was interviewed for this report.  According to investigators, Sonia Altagracia Shals was fired for associating with members of the legally registered union at the company.  Sonia is a single mother with four children, who had worked 7 years at the Suprema factory.“Maine’s Code of Conduct for apparel suppliers does not allow freedom of association violations where workers have that right and we take very seriously credible reports about labor violations in supplier factories,” Maine Purchasing Director Betty Lamoreau said.  “We have asked our vendor to request that the company investigate the firing of Sonia Altagracia Schals and to reinstate her with full back pay if there is evidence the company fired her in retaliation for supporting the union or for participating in the research project.”  Lamoreau added, “We seek to work with vendors to rectify labor violations and ensure working conditions improve rather than terminating contracts.”Elected officials, fair trade advocates, clergy, and labor leaders gathered today at the State House in Augusta and at U.S. Post Offices in at least 17 U.S. cities to release Subsidizing Sweatshops II and call for end to taxpayer support for sweatshops.“We have a choice: we can use our tax dollars to elevate conditions for working people, or our tax dollars can fuel the race to the bottom that has cost hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers their jobs and led to inhumane sweatshop conditions around the world,” said Bjorn Claeson, Executive Director of SweatFree Communities and author of the report. “By joining the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium, our cities and states can make a real difference in the lives of working people while helping to create a more sustainable economy.”Maine is one of the leaders of the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium.  “I am pleased that Maine has joined the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium, and proud of Maine’s continuing leadership in sweatshop-free purchasing,” said Lamoreau.  Other states and cities that have committed to join the Consortium include the State of Pennsylvania: the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin: the City of Portland, Oregon: and the City of Olympia, Washington.Download the report at Communities coordinates a national network of grassroots campaigns that promote humane working conditions in apparel and other labor-intensive global industries by working with both public and religious institutions to adopt sweatshop-free purchasing policies. Using institutional purchasing as a lever for worker justice, the sweatfree movement empowers ordinary people to create a just global economy through local action. Learn more at [ ] Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium, comprised of states, cities, counties, local government agencies, and school districts, as well as human rights advocates and labor rights experts, will pool resources of public entities to investigate working conditions in factories that make uniforms and other products for public employees. Cities and states will hold vendors to ethical standards, and create a market large enough to persuade companies to deal responsibly and ethically with their suppliers and workers. Learn more at