REICH LIST, IMPORT DATA GO ON HOLD
WASHINGTON — As the partial federal government shutdown enters its third day, the release of import data and the Labor Department’s crackdown on apparel sweatshops are in jeopardy.
Prospects for a swift end to the second government closure in a month dimmed over the weekend as the White House and the GOP-led Congress continued to bicker over the estimates to be used to frame a seven-year, balanced budget deal. With each side accusing the other of a breach of faith, Majority Leader Sen. Bob Dole (R., Kan.) said on a televised newsmaker show Sunday he is not sanguine that the budget impasse will be resolved before Christmas.
About 280,000 federal employees at 12 agencies were slated to be furloughed today, although these agencies technically have been closed since Saturday. The Commerce Department report on apparel and textile imports, slated for release Wednesday, will be delayed indefinitely. With only a handful of “essential” employees on the job at Labor, its nationwide program to identify and publicize the names of illegal sweatshops will be suspended until federal funding is restored. On Dec. 5, the agency issued a list of apparel firms and retailers which it certified are not doing business with contractors who violate federal wage and hour laws. At that time, Labor Secretary Robert Reich promised the agency would update the list and continue its crackdown on sweatshops.
The U.S. Customs Service will continue to process imports as usual. The U.S. Postal Service, which is self-supporting, will collect and deliver mail on regular schedules, and Social Security and Medicare checks will be sent to recipients, an important consideration for retailers during the final shopping week before Christmas.