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
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
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