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Dolan pushes bill barring vendors from supplying 'sweatshop' apparel

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 26, 2013 - A St. Louis County councilman is trying to bar apparel and textile vendors from supplying the county with goods manufactured under dangerous working conditions.

Councilman Pat Dolan, D-Richmond Heights, introduced a bill at Tuesday’s council meeting stating that “no vendor shall fulfill a contract with the county for the supplying of apparel or textiles where the manufacture of the apparel or textiles originates from a production facility that engages in sweatshop practices.”

Items encompassed under the bill could include clothes, shoes, sheets, pillowcases and blankets.

“Sweatshop practices” as defined in the bill include, but are not limited to, failing to pay wages in compliance with federal or state regulations, exposing workers to toxic chemicals or making employees work excessively long hours.

The bill goes onto say that a vendor would have certify by affidavit that its “apparel or textiles to be supplied were not, to the best of its knowledge, obtained from or manufactured at a facility engaging in sweatshop practices.” Any vendor that violates the ordinance would be barred from receiving county contracts for one year.

In an interview with reporters, Dolan said several municipalities within his district approached him with the idea.   

“I think sweatshops should be illegal all over the world, basically,” Dolan said. “But as far as we’re concerned, I think it’s only fair to not only get quality merchandise, but we get it done with fair standard wages and a [good] environment for them to work in.

“To be honest, I’d prefer it all be American made,” he added. “But if it isn’t – it isn’t. But at least it’s guaranteed that there are no sweatshop or child labor laws being broken or anything.”

Dolan said the bill would not apply to existing contracts. The council would need to vote on the measure twice before its sent to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.