ALBANY, N.Y. — About 50 activists — including students dressed in drag, in cardboard boxes and in garbage bags — joined religious and labor representatives at a national Sweat Free Communities Conference here Saturday.
“The trade deals may tell us to turn a blind eye to worker welfare, to worker dignity, to workers’ lives; they may tell us just buy, but when the corporations are telling us to shut our eyes, then we open our eyes wide,” said Bjorn Claeson, conference coordinator and director for the Sweat Free Communities coalition.
Sweat Free Communities is a network of antisweatshop organizations promoting institutional purchasing campaigns and linking efforts against local and global factories that violate labor, environmental or personal rights laws and standards.
Tom Hayden, a former California state senator and Sixties antiwar activist, who was the featured speaker, noted California has passed legislation that prohibits the use of tax dollars for contractors and subcontractors who employ sweatshop labor.
“The struggle is not over, but I have to tell you that it’s not a difficult struggle because there are very few politicians in America who want to stand for the proposition that your tax dollars should go to sweatshops,” he said.?“They cringe at the thought.”
The states of Maine, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have passed antisweatshop legislation, as have several cities across the country. Many schools nationwide have adopted antisweatshop rules, as well.
Two local male students attended the meeting in dresses, their statement illustrating how hard it is to avoid wearing sweatshop-made clothing.
— Carrie Eckert