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Dorgan Introduces Bill to Ban Sale of Sweatshop Products

Susan Notes: I don't usually post notices about legislation, particularly if it's not about education. But sweatshop factories are a moral issue of such consequence that I'm doing it. Besides that, America's addiction to cheap products affects the wages of our working class and the quality of life of the children in our schools. And despite what the "No Excuses!" zealots proclaim, family income matters a whole lot to school success.


Press Release

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) --- U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) introduced legislation Thursday to prohibit the U.S. sale of products produced in “sweatshop factories” abroad.

The ban would be enforced with fines of up to $10,000 for each violation, and a provision that allows competitors of retailers who sell sweatshop-produced products to sue for damages for each violation. Sweatshop factories would be defined under the legislation as factories that abuse their workers in violation of that country’s labor laws.

“Free trade” agreements negotiated between the U.S. and other countries have fueled a growth in sweatshop production, Dorgan said, since products produced by those countries enter the United States duty free.

A 1999 “free trade” agreement with Jordan was supposed to have created jobs for Jordanians and protected workers, but had the exact opposite effect, Dorgan said.

Jordan began flying in so-called “guest workers” from even lower-wage countries like Bangladesh and China to make products in Jordan for sale at stores like Wal-Mart. Working conditions for those workers were “slave-like,” Dorgan said. They were forced to work 20 hour days, often weren’t paid for months, and were often hit by supervisors and jailed when they complained. One worker was paid only $50 for five months of work.

“What we ended up with under the Jordanian Free Trade Agreement are Bangladeshi workers, working 120 hours a week, turning Chinese cloth into clothing for the U.S. market, which enters duty-free in the U.S. market,” Dorgan said.

Jordanian exports to the U.S. increased twenty five fold since the agreement took effect in 1999.

“It’s all part of a global strategy of big corporate interests to find the cheapest possible labor and to exploit free trade agreements,” Dorgan said.

“The best way to put a stop to it is to simply prohibit the sale of products sold in sweatshops, and make sure there are powerful incentives to see that the prohibition is respected and enforced,” Dorgan said.

Click here to read Senator Dorgan's legislation.


Contact Information
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email: nlc@nlcnet.org
phone: 212-242-3002
web: http://www.nlcnet.org

— U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan
Press Release
2006-06-12


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