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Textile News
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Senators Seek Penalties For Sweatshops

By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation banning imports made in sweatshop factories and permitting injured competitors to sue them. The bill not only imposes fines of up to $10,000 per violation, but also gives US retailers the right to sue their competitors in the US courts if their competitors sell merchandise produced in sweatshop factories.

The bill defines a sweatshop as a factory that does not comply with the labor laws of its own country.

The measure immediately received an enthusiastic endorsement from the Washington-based American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), which represents a wide range of manufacturers including textiles and apparel. AMTAC’s Executive Director Auggie Tantillo said, “The failure of other countries, such as China, to adequately enforce minimum labor laws effectively grants their producers a substantial subsidy over those companies and countries that treat their workers fairly.” He said an anti-sweatshop law would be a practical solution to the problem.

Initial sponsors of the bill are Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Russ Feingold, D-WI; and Bernie Sanders, I-VT.

In introducing the legislation, Dorgan said: “There is no reason for the United States of America to allow the sale of products made in slave labor-like conditions. This bill would put an end to it. It also would stand up for American producers and American workers and tell them they don’t have to compete against those who cut corners at the cost of human health, dignity and even human lives.”

Dorgan charged that free trade agreements negotiated between the United States and other nations have fueled a growth in sweatshop production, and goods made in those countries enjoy duty-free access to the US market at the expense of legitimate manufacturers.

The Democratic leaders of the new Congress have said they will seek to have labor and environmental standards incorporated into future free trade agreements.

January 30, 2007