OHIO CITY ADOPTS POLICY REFUSING TO BUY GOODS MADE IN SWEATSHOPS
Byline: Arthur Friedman
NEW YORK — The city of North Olmsted, Ohio, has made labor history.
This week, according to its mayor and to UNITE, it became the first U.S. municipality to adopt an official policy barring the purchase of goods produced in sweatshops.
North Olmsted’s City Council passed the resolution that prohibits the city from purchasing, renting or leasing uniforms or other goods that “have been manufactured under sweatshop conditions and/or through the exploitation of workers and/or the abuse of child labor.”
Mayor Ed Boyle, who proposed the legislation, said the resolution is “only the first step in this important fight against sweatshops.”
“We now intend to aggressively implement the policy with a goal of removing more than $100,000 worth of business from sweatshops by Labor Day,” Boyle said.
In a phone interview, the Democratic mayor, who said the resolution was passed unanimously by a bipartisan council, said he intends to speak about the ordinance at the U.S. Conference of Mayors convention in San Francisco in June. He said several towns had contacted him about adopting such an ordinance.
Susan Cowell, a UNITE vice president who attended the council meeting where the resolution was passed, said, “We are hopeful that this will become a model for other cities throughout the country.”
Boyle noted that North Olmsted, a Cleveland suburb with a population of 35,000, is a retail haven, accounting for 35 percent of Cuyahoga County’s retail sales. The city is primarily white-collar, but has a lot of union representation among its citizens.
The ordinance requires the city’s suppliers to allow the municipality to evaluate their working conditions to insure compliance with all labor, health and safety laws. Products include uniforms for municipal workers, as well as sports equipment for the city’s recreation department pro shop and teams.
Boyle said the city will cancel any contract if goods are found to be made in sweatshops. He said UNITE has offered advice and guidelines to police the ordinance.