The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board of education adopted a resolution Thursday, January 20th, to not purchase products made in sweatshop working conditions.
The resolution, called the “No Sweat Procurement Policy,” is to come back to the board of education as a formal policy when feasible enforcement procedures are identified.
“The conditions of the workplace are things we have to acknowledge and educate the public about,” said board member Oscar de la Torre, who requested that the district adopt the resolution.
A district group is to be established to develop a code of conduct for vendors who supply the district with apparel, sports equipment, and other products.
The code development group is to be comprised of district staff, teachers union representatives, labor advocates, and other people who know about sweatshop working conditions.
Vendors who wish to contract or subcontract with the district would have to convince the district that products were manufactured under “sweat-free, fair labor conditions.”
Elements of fair labor principles to be considered under the resolution include:
– workers earning non-poverty wages;
– safe and healthy working conditions;
– workers having rights to assemble and organize unions;
– prohibition of exploitative child labor; and
– disclosure of the location of manufacturing plants.
“I am a parent of a son who attends John Muir Elementary School here in Santa Monica,” said Yolanda de Cordova.
“I am very proud to be part of a school district that is against sweatshops, a school district that shares the same values I try to teach my son,” de Cordova said.
Previously, the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation, the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the State of California adopted similar resolutions and policies.
Representatives from various nonprofit organizations that monitor sweatshops said the district should join a consortium of “sweat-free” U.S. cities, school districts, and universities to ensure cost-effective enforcement of the code of conduct.
“It is appalling that sweatshop conditions exist in Los Angeles, one of the wealthiest cities in the world,” said Harry Keiley, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association.
“One of the greatest challenges we face in the 21st century is economic justice,” Keiley said. “As public school teachers and elected officials, we must speak out against things that are wrong.”
The teachers union and its human rights committee unanimously support the resolution.
Experts who research sweatshops say that Los Angeles County has the worst sweatshop working conditions in the United States, and that China and India have the worst sweatshop conditions overseas.
A worker in a garment industry sweatshop who identified herself as Carmen told the board of education that she has long workdays without breaks and earns less than minimum wage.
She said she and most of her coworkers are immigrants who are not aware of all their rights.
Carmen also alleged that working conditions in Los Angeles sweatshops have recently been getting worse.
District superintendent John Deasy praised Carmen for her comments.
“You are a model for something we try to teach to our students, which is having your voice heard and having the courage to speak out in public,” Deasy said.
Karen Mack, a representative of the nonprofit organization Sweatshop Watch, said the district’s resolution would make a big difference.
“For sweatshop workers in Los Angeles and throughout the world, this resolution will impact their lives,” Mack said.
“This resolution is one of the ways we can send a message to the industries to make sure that the goods we use daily are manufactured in conditions fair to workers,” she said.