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U.S. Anti-Sweatshop Effort Moves Forward

MAY 12, 2004
3:40 PM
CONTACT: SweatFree Communities
: Bjorn Claeson 207-262-7277

Activists Wear "Clean Clothes or Nothing" in First-Ever National "Sweatfree"

BANGOR, ME - May 12 - With the loss of US manufacturing jobs and trade
issues taking center stage in the presidential candidate debate,
anti-sweatshop activists across the country are pushing through a wave of
historic reforms aimed at using tax dollars to promote fair trade and
anti-sweatshop alternatives. Albany, NY will host many of the sweatfree
movement¹s leaders when an array of anti-sweatshop activists arrive here
this Friday for the first national ³SweatFree Communities Conference,² May
14-16. Former California State Senator Tom Hayden, co-director of the ³No
More Sweatshops² movement, is featured speaker on Saturday.

Conference organizers point out that US tax dollars often subsidize abusive
child and exploitative labor domestically and overseas and undermine the job
security of U.S. workers who have fair pay and good working conditions when
public agencies purchase uniforms and other apparel. "We are paying to lose
our jobs and this has to stop now by reforming public policy from coast to
coast," says SweatFree Communities board member Dan Hennefeld, and Director
for the UNITE union's Uniform Project. "This conference will lead the way."

"Conference participants are committed to wearing clean clothes or nothing
at all," says conference organizer Bjorn Claeson. "They will be fair-trade
models for their schools, cities, and states showing them that being
sweatfree is no sweat."

"We're moving millions of purchasing dollars to the workers' cause," says
SweatFree Communities Board President Brian O'Shaugnessy. "That creates
market demand that can force companies to improve working conditions or face
declining sales." O'Shaugnessy is Executive Director of the New York State
Labor-Religion Coalition, host of the conference.

Among conference participants are a group of Maryland high-school students
originally from Central America, who want their school district to go
sweatfree and help workers back in their home countries; a distributor for
two worker-owned fair trade apparel production facilities in Mexico and
Nicaragua; clergy such as World Mission Ministries of the Milwaukee
Archdiocese; and a sweatfree baseball campaign from Pittsburgh.

Sweatfree purchasing policies, including a milestone California state law
that just went into effect, require government vendors and their
subcontractors to abide by fair labor standards when doing business with the
taxpayers'money and supplying goods such as law enforcement uniforms,
college sportswear and footwear. The states of Maine, New Jersey, New York,
and Pennsylvania have also passed anti-sweatshop legislation, as well as
dozens of cities and schools of all sizes, from Boston to Milwaukee to Los
Angeles to Toledo to Olympia, Washington.

SweatFree Communities is a network of anti-sweatshop organizations
supporting and promoting sweatfree institutional purchasing campaigns and
linking efforts against local and global sweatshops.