N.Y. SWEATSHOP LAW GETS PERSONAL
Byline: Betty Morrow / Adrienne Coons
ALBANY — Owners, corporate officers and agents of apparel manufacturers and contractors who fail to comply with the state’s apparel registration law could be charged with a class B misdemeanor under legislation currently before Gov. George E. Pataki.
“The registration requirements for apparel industry manufacturers and contractors are an important weapon in the fight against sweatshops,” said state Sen. Nicholas Spano, the Republican from Yonkers who is a bill sponsor, as well as chairman of the Senate Labor Committee.
Manufacturers who contract their work out to small factories, often to reduce production costs, are required to provide information about their principals. This also includes the labor law violation history of other corporations with which these small contractors have had involvement.
However, the current law only penalizes the manufacturer for failure to register. Spano said the enactment of this legislation would provide a “more meaningful enforcement tool which could not be frustrated by the common apparel industry practice of constantly reformulating corporate identities.” He said, “In an industry where the life span of a corporation is measured in months, regulation and enforcement that does not reach corporate principals is futile.”
In a memorandum supporting the bill, the apparel union UNITE said: “This legislation provides an invaluable tool in the effort to eliminate sweatshops in New York State by holding those principals personally and criminally responsible for the violations.”
State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is also supporting this legislation, and a spokeswoman for the AG’s Labor Bureau, said this legislation would make principals in a corporation accountable for violations even after the corporation dissolves.
If Pataki signs the law this year, it will take effect on Nov. 1.