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Cook County Unanimously Passes Anti-Sweatshop Law

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
News India Times


Cook County (CC) Board unanimously passed an ordinance, April 29, prohibiting the county from purchasing goods and uniforms from garment vendors who use sweatshop labor in any part of their supply chain, including subcontractors. This follows a similar measure sponsored by Chicago Alderman Pawar and passed by Chicago City Council in 2014. CC Commissioner John Fritchey was joined by Pawar and local anti-sweatshop advocates here at downtown CC Building, April 24, to announce the proposal. Many from the rapidly growing Desi population here had pressed for this law after tragedies at sweatshops in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

South Asian American Policy and Research Institute (SAAPRI) volunteer Fatema Zohara stated at the news conference, “I am a Bangladeshi American and adjunct professor at College of DuPage. I was happy to hear about these efforts, because finally Chicago and Cook County are taking a stand against this type of injustice. I was also surprised because it took thousands of preventable deaths in disasters such as the Ali Enterprises fire in Pakistan, as well as the Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh. Our Desi community includes business owners as well as low-wage workers, but improving labor conditions benefits all.”

“The passage of this ordinance has both practical and symbolic significance,” stated Fritchey. “As the second largest county in the country, we are a significant consumer of garments and uniforms and it is incumbent upon us to lead by example to only procure goods from humane supply chains. If just one of our vendors is using sweatshop labor, that’s one too many and this ordinance makes clear that the county will not use taxpayer dollars to support it.” Cook County procures garments for a number of different agencies, including Sheriff’s Police, CC Health & Hospital patients and staff, and CC Jail and Juvenile Detention Center staff and detainees.

“Passing the Chicago sweat-free procurement ordinance was a critical step in the fight – the…countywide ordinance will further propel efforts to ensure our taxpayer dollars do not support manufacturers and contractors who have sweat or child labor in their supply chains,” said Pawar, who has previously spoken of his grandfather having worked in the garment industry in India without ever seeing a decent wage.

“Procurement practices can and do make a significant impact on working conditions in the apparel industry. As we commemorate the Rana Plaza building collapse two years ago in Bangladesh – a tragedy that killed over 1,100 apparel workers, we must take action to assure this never happens again.” said Katherine Bissell Cordova, Executive Director of Chicago Fair Trade, a group that helped develop the measure. “We applaud Cook County for leveraging its considerable purchasing power to raise global standards.”

“Rana Plaza is a stark reminder of what is absolutely wrong with our fast-fashion industry…Our City and County governments are taking steps to ensure that we play absolutely no part in working with businesses that do not take care of their employees and the environment…for the lives that it touches and improves, it is a significant step forward,” said Harish I. Patel, Civic Engagement Fellow at SAAPRI and owner of ishi vest, which makes naturally-dyed, chemical-free, organic and fair trade clothing.

The press releases cited above were released April 24 and 29.



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