Schools, Cities, States Unite to Fight for Historic Sweatshop Reforms


First International “SweatFree” Conference to Mobilize Worker Rights Advocates, Producers, and Businesses from Four Continents

On the heels of historic new sweatshop-free purchasing laws in San Francisco, Madison, and Milwaukee, and an unprecedented agreement among nine Catholic school boards in Ontario to pool resources for monitoring and inspecting factory suppliers of school uniforms, proponents of “sweatfree” procurement will gather in a new international landmark: the first international SweatFree Communities conference, to be held April 7-9, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Presenters will include leading worker rights advocates from the United States, Canada, Europe, China, Haiti, and Central America, as well as sweatshop-free garment producers and businesses from Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and the United States.

Conference organizers expect 50 organizations represented by over 150 participants. “Concerned citizens from communities nationwide will come together to share lessons and strategize to call for their cities, school districts and other public and religious institutions to adopt procurement policies that do not subsidize sweatshop or abusive child labor at taxpayers’ expense,” says Irene Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Resource Center of the Americas, which serves as conference host.

The conference will emphasize nuts and bolts organizing skills, while promoting new city, state, and school coalitions to consolidate procurement power and coordinate enforcement of sweatfree policies. Highlights will include sessions on marketing sweatshop-free products, immigrant working conditions in the U.S. laundry and garment industries, and a special presentation for elected officials and procurement staff. One conference track will be designed by and for youth to learn how to organize for sweatfree schools.

“Sweatfree campaigns succeed because they promote a positive agenda for worker justice. They are attractive to a lot of people because they can organize for global justice in their own communities,” says SweatFree Communities National Organizer Liana Foxvog.

“Together we’re moving millions of tax dollars to the cause of worker justice. That creates market demand that can force companies to improve working conditions or face declining sales,” added SweatFree Communities Director Bjorn Claeson.

Sweatfree purchasing policies, including a milestone San Francisco city ordinance that just went into effect, require government vendors and their subcontractors to abide by fair labor standards when supplying goods such as law enforcement uniforms, or providing laundry services. The states of California, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania have passed anti-sweatshop legislation, as well as dozens of cities including Boston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Olympia, and Toledo.

SweatFree Communities supports and coordinates campaigns for public and religious institutions to adopt sweatfree procurement policies that end public support for sweatshops and generate significant market demand for products made in humane conditions by workers who are paid living wages.

For more information and to register for the conference see