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Rev. Billy Preaches to San Francisco Supervisors to End Sweatshops!

From the San Francisco Chronicle


The Reverend Billy Preaches the Good News of the SF Sweatfree Ordinance!

"Can I hear a CHANGE-A-LUJAH!" shouted Reverend Billy from the steps of San Francisco City Hall, as he called for an end to tax-dollar subsidies for sweatshops.

Hosted by Global Exchange and the Sweatfree Bay Area Coalition, the Reverend
Billy and his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir came to save the soul of San Francisco last week by spreading the good news of a proposed sweatshop-free ordinance. Arriving amidst the flurry of activity surrounding the United Nations World Environment Day, they inspired a spontaneous congregation with a dazzling event of sermon, song, and the "sainting" of a supportive City legislator.

"We want that flag to be sweatshop-free!" preached the Reverend through a megaphone as he raised his free hand to the stars and stripes flapping high overhead. "We want those police uniforms to be sweatshop free!" he continued, gesturing to the cluster of officers watching half-warily, half-amused over the "guerilla" media event.

Reverend Billy, his choir of 35 strong, and his 5-piece band came in support of what promises to be the nation's strongest sweatshop-free government purchasing law and to support a purchasing preference for Fair Trade and organic certified goods.

The large gathering of press, supporters, City legislators, and fascinated passer-bys, clapped along to gospel tunes about fair wages and shouted "amens!" to the Reverend's rousing protestations against corporate greed and excessive consumption.

The crowd also heard from Valerie Orth and Andy Blue of Global Exchange as they called for the City and County of San Francisco to end their tax-dollar subsidization of sweatshops. Global Exchange and the Sweatfree Bay Area Coalition, made up of over 50 partner organizations, have been working for the past several months to pass a historic "sweatfree" government procurement ordinance for San Francisco. The law would require every company with which the City contracts to sign a strict code of conduct guaranteeing basic worker rights.

To prevent the law from becoming a mere "feel-good" ordinance, the Coalition has insisted that the City also provide funding for enforcement of the ordinance by a non-profit, non-corporate monitoring agency. To protect the health and safety of all workers in the chain of production from farm to factory, the coalition has additionally called for a companion law requiring a preference for Fair Trade and organic certified goods.

One Supervisor, Green Party member Ross Mirkarimi, promised to support all the sweatfree policies and then accepted the opportunity to be "sainted" by the Reverend during the ceremony. The Supervisor fell to his knees as the humming choir encircled him and the Reverend, placing a firm hand on his shoulder, blessed him for his progressive political leadership.

After the ceremony on the front steps, Global Exchange activists, Coalition members, the Reverend, and the Choir -- all headed into City Hall where they packed the offices of Supervisors, praying and singing for worker justice and the ethical use of tax dollars.

The event was a big success in publicizing the Sweatfree Ordinance. Press coverage included segments on local TV news and an article in The San Francisco Chronicle, as well as stories on radio and in the independent media. Flyers were passed out to the large crowd of spectators drawn-in by the celebratory atmosphere. One observer who chanced upon the event stated, "I've been to hundreds of demonstrations in San Francisco over the years and this is the best one I've ever seen!" The sweatfree law which is sponsored by Supervisor Tom Ammiano and Mayor Gavin Newsom will be introduced this month and come up for a vote a few weeks later. Global Exchange and the Sweatfree Bay Area Coalition will also pressure the Board of Supervisors this summer to draft and pass an ordinance for Fair Trade and organic purchasing preferences.

To join the Sweatfree Bay Area Coalition and to help pass sweatfree laws in San Francisco and in communities across the Bay Area, contact Global Exchange at 415-575-5541 or For more information visit

San Francisco residents, please write, call, or email your Supervisor requesting her/his support for the Sweatfree Ordinance. Also contact your Supervisor and the Mayor to insist that they support a law for Organic and Fair Trade preferences to ensure the protection and safety of all workers in the chain of production.