Sweatfree Communities 

SweatFree Communities 

IFCLA has been involved in a campaign to get municipalities in the St. Louis region to become Sweatfree Communities. This means that the town, city, county, state, school district, etc. decides by resolution or ordinance to purchase uniforms and clothing from non-sweatshops. They join the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium to carry out this decision. 

University City, MO was the first municipality to pass such a resolution and join the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium!! It was followed by Saint Louis City, Saint Louis County and Clayton in our area. 

The campaign for St Louis Sweatfree is a long process. Form a committee in your municipality. Let’s make the whole region sweatfree! Your neighborhood, school, workplace, place of worship… Then we can support the effort for St Louis region as a Fair Trade Town. 

Contact IFCLA or 314-721-2977 if you would like to organize a sweatfree task force. SweatFree Communities, a campaign of the International Labor Rights Forum, assists sweatshop workers globally in their struggles to improve working conditions and form strong, independent unions. 

In 2003, grassroots organizations in Maine, Minnesota, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin created SweatFree Communities (SFC). Each group had been successful—through mostly volunteer efforts—in promoting groundbreaking new procurement policies to ensure our state and local governments, using our tax dollars, were not buying uniforms and other clothing made in sweatshops. 

Just seven years later, nine states, 40 cities, 15 counties, 118 school districts, and one nationwide religious denomination adopted such “sweatfree” policies. SFC coordinates these local campaigns; maintains resources for education and policy development; conducts research on supply chain transparency and the working conditions in government supplier factories; and coordinates educational forums for government officials. 

At the same time, SFC has worked with leading government agencies to form the Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium (est. May 2010), a membership organization for governments to help them act with combined strength and transparency in meeting their goals for sweatshop-free purchasing. The Consortium provides expertise and pools resources to monitor working conditions and enforce “sweatfree” standards. The Consortium’s goal is to change the rules of competition to favor not businesses that produce the cheapest possible goods at the expense of workers, but those that offer good value while operating transparently, providing humane working conditions, and valuing workers' human and labor rights. 

In 2010, SweatFree Communities joined forces with the International Labor Rights Forum, becoming an ILRF campaign and beginning a new collaboration to strengthen our advocacy efforts to create a sweatfree world. 

Did you know? 

Procurement in the United States accounts for 20 percent of GDP, two-thirds of which is state and local purchasing (13% of GDP), and one-third of which is federal (7% of GDP). The federal government procures over $500 billion of services and goods annually, which is more than the GDP of all but 16 countries. SweatFree Communities estimates combined U.S. federal, state, and local government apparel procurement alone at more than $10 billion annually. An estimated 25% of U.S. workers wear a uniform of some type and many of them are government employees. Any way you look at it, government procurement is a force, one that governments can use responsibly to create jobs, promote decent working conditions and a fair global economy, level the playing field for high-road businesses, and improve the transparency and accountability of both government spending and the participating Cover for Black Starsindustries. 

SweatFree Communities is an exciting and positive approach in the international worker rights movement. Campaigns for sweatfree procurement policies foster sustained local activism and strong coalitions of labor, student, solidarity, peace and justice, and faith-based groups. Local campaigns attract new people to social activism, channeling their outrage about sweatshops into engagement with local institutions. New movement leaders emerge from local campaigns as graduating high school activists take leadership roles in the university anti-sweatshop movement and other organizations. 

These innovative campaigns allow community activists to control the shape and timing of their own efforts, in coordination with other local campaigns. Because most localities include multiple entities that purchase goods and services -- for example, the city, the county, the school district, and the state -- one successful campaign can provide momentum for another. As a local issue in which elected officials have to take positions, these campaigns also offer significant possibilities for press coverage and public education. Using institutional purchasing as a lever for worker justice, the sweatfree movement ultimately empowers ordinary people to create a just global economy through local action


Legislative Strategies 

Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment 


Much of the debate about the impact of U.S. trade policy on developing countries has focused on the issues of labor rights and environmental protections. 

U.S. trade policies and agreements should contribute to people's livelihoods, sustainable human development, and the alleviation of poverty in developing countries. This serves not only a humanitarian objective, but also the long-term interests of the United States. When our global neighbors experience true human security and a more hopeful future, people in the U.S. will be more secure. 

Faith Reflection: The Biblical emphasis on concern for the poor should lead Christians to advocate for governmental policies that assist and empower people struggling to overcome poverty. As an organization working with local partners in poor communities around the world, we see the effect of trade policies firsthand. Tragically, the approach to trade pursued by our government over past 30 years has often had a detrimental impact on poor communities in the developing world. These policies have stymied economic development in poor countries and forced millions of family farmers off of their land, creating poverty, despair and mass migration. 


Recognize Free Trade Failures 

NAFTA Failures in Mexico 
(Taken from the CAFTA Briefing Packet, by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA

NAFTA in Mexico: 

Signed in 1994, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was lauded by its supporters as a “win-win-win” accord that would bring increased economic integration, development, and growth to Canada, Mexico, and the United States. NAFTA has undoubtedly accelerated regional economic integration, and select sectors have benefited from the agreement. But the tradeoffs of such integration are by no means negligible. Lessons learned from the experience of farmers and workers in Mexico under NAFTA can help illuminate the risks of sweeping reforms now being proposed for Central America.

•  Asymmetrical levels of development in Mexico and the United States have acted as a barrier to real competition between the two countries, and have dealt a blow to Mexico’s small and medium producers. A 2001 report by the Economic Policy Institute found that at the time Mexico entered into NAFTA negotiations, it suffered from “noncompetitive production costs…due to higher prices for inputs such as diesel and electricity, higher financial costs, and higher marketing costs (due to deficient infrastructure in highways and warehouse storage…among other factors).” Greater access to farm technology and targeted subsidies in the United States have allowed large-scale agribusinesses to flourish, while the vast majority of Mexican farmers cultivate small plots with far fewer technological inputs. Combined with an elimination of some subsidies and price supports for Mexican farmers, the disparity has resulted in a flood of low-cost US goods to Mexico with which most Mexican farmers are unable to compete. 

NAFTA and Labor in Mexico

•  Blows to the rural agriculture sector under liberalization have not necessarily been offset by increased employment in urban areas. Under NAFTA, Mexico has seen a dramatic expansion of maquiladoras, with these plants contributing to 35% of all new manufacturing employment between 1995 and 1999. However, jobs were lost during the same period, as factories that had previously supplied inputs to exporters were replaced by foreign suppliers. On balance, employment in the manufacturing sector fell 9.4% between 1993 and 2000, as the loss in supply-chain jobs overtook growth in the maquiladora industry. 

•  Even in sectors that experienced growth under NAFTA, wages and purchasing power fell.According to a report issued by the office of Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo in 2000, incomes of salaried workers in Mexico fell by 25% between 1993 and 1998. While some of this decline can be attributed to the peso crisis Mexico experienced in 1995, even wages in maquiladoras – a rapidly expanding sector of the economy – fell by 21% during this period. Moreover, the purchasing power of the minimum wage fell by 17.9% through 1999. 

•  Workers’ rights and working conditions in Mexico have not improved noticeably under NAFTA, despite the inclusion of labor provisions in the agreement. The North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), a side agreement of NAFTA, called on signatories to enforce their existing labor laws and created a mechanism by which an outside panel could be appointed if countries exhibited a pattern of non-compliance. While the agreement held potential to strengthen labor standards and practices, the decision to use NAALC in this way – including calling for an arbitrating panel in cases of non-compliance – was placed in the hands of signatory countries rather than an independent oversight body. Moreover, only certain violations could trigger panel review or sanctions. Violations of the freedom of association, the right to bargain collectively, and the right to strike are among the labor rights not eligible for review or sanctions. As documented by Human Rights Watch, the end result of NAALC has been that signatories’ “interpretation of [the agreement’s] obligations has been minimal…[and] petitioners’ concerns have been ignored.” 

CAFTA Failures 
(Taken from the Stop CAFTA Coalition’s Third Annual Report Third Annual Monitoring Report)


The Stop CAFTA Coalition and its partners have compiled this third annual report to detail the trends and impacts the U.S.-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) has had on citizens and economies in the signatory countries. The agreement is still relatively new, but the problems and trends forecasted or identified early on have materialized or proven worse than first expected. Patterns of growing inequality and ongoing poverty within the signatory countries have only become more extreme, contrary to claims that DR-CAFTA proponents made when arguing for the agreement’s passage. 

The Stop CAFTA Coalition has determined that the negative impacts that DR-CAFTA has made in these countries are not simply “growing pains,” or the inevitable transitionary problems associated with the restructuring of a country’s economic system; they are fundamental flaws in the economic theory that drives DRCAFTA and will likely not improve. Therefore, the Coalition strongly recommends that the DR-CAFTA agreement be reassessed by the incoming Obama Administration and the 111th Congress, which convenes in January 2009. Not only should the U.S. put a moratorium on future CAFTA-style agreements, but Congress should evaluate the existing agreements and renegotiate or roll back the failed accords. In the case of DRCAFTA, the results of this report lead the Stop CAFTA Coalition to believe that the current agreement should be either completely overhauled or outright eliminated, and that a alternative trade relationship between the U.S. and Central America should built based on the eight principles of the “Pledge for Trade Justice” presented in the conclusion of this report. 

Findings of “DR-CAFTA: Effects and Alternatives” 

In this report, analysts have found that the impacts and trends outlined in the 2007 report have continued or worsened. This is most apparent in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, three of the first countries to implement DR-CAFTA, and the three countries on which this report focuses. In all three cases, none of the comprehensive benefits it promised to these countries have yet been realized. 

Social Impacts in Central America 

Under DR-CAFTA, some signatory countries can report thousands of new jobs and reductions in rural unemployment, but these statistics can be misleading. Proponents of the trade agreement attribute the gains to DR-CAFTA. The statistics do not show, however, that many of the jobs created are dangerous, exploitative, and unstable jobs in factories, or maquilas, of the multi-national corporations that have moved into Central America as a result of DR-CAFTA’s investment incentives. The data does not introduce us to the many citizens whose families have sustained themselves farming for generations, but who are now forced to take maquila jobs because of a lack of options. Nor do statistics explain that job increases are usually accompanied by similar amounts of jobs lost in the agricultural sector. Similarly, unemployment figures typically do not take into account that much of the reduction in unemployment is the result of thousands upon thousands of workers forced to emigrate to Mexico or the United States because farming is not only no longer profitable, but cannot even sustain an already impoverished family. 

Trade Balance 

Some countries also saw increases in exports. These gains, however, are almost exclusively limited to large, often foreign corporations whose profits do not benefit the local economies or were to locations other than the U.S. Central American farmers are often unable to access the international market, in part due to weak infrastructure and their inability to compete with large corporate farms that have access to the capital needed to succeed in a DR-CAFTA economy. For most signatory countries, exports to the United States fell and imports from the United States rose, resulting in even greater trade imbalances than before the agreement. Earnings in the textile sector were also disappointing, as the region continued to lose jobs to Asia. One contributing factor was expiration of the Multi- Fiber Agreement (MFA) that regulated textile quotas and ensured that Central American countries could export to the U.S. Any advantages that DR-CAFTA created were diminished as companies pulled out of Central America and relocated in China. 

Intellectual Property 

Another potentially debilitating aspect of DR-CAFTA is the impact of its mandates regarding intellectual property rights. DR-CAFTA allows corporations to extend patent restrictions on pharmaceuticals, which means that once DR-CAFTA passes in a country, any medicine still under patent in the United States can extend that patent for twenty years in a CAFTA country. This creates an even more pervasive monopoly: local pharmaceutical companies must wait even longer before producing generic products for impoverished citizens that are unable to afford band-name products. These intellectual property provisions effectively perpetuate an already alarming inequality in health care across Central America by making many drugs affordable only to the extremely wealthy. 


Large-scale industrial development projects, such as open-pit mines or hydroelectric dams, are entering the region in increasing numbers due to DR-CAFTA’s stipulations regarding foreign investment. According to DRCAFTA, countries that host these foreign mega-projects are required to lower any “barriers to investment,” which usually means any tax or other type of benefit the country would receive from the project. DR-CAFTA also makes it very difficult for countries to take any legal action against a foreign corporation for any crimes committed in the country. Companies that bring mega-projects to the region also, quite often, exploit the indigenous populations the projects affect, by pushing them off of their ancestral land, poisoning or re-directing DR-CAFTA: Effects and Alternatives 2 their water supplies, and ignoring the repeated calls of indigenous peoples for human rights. Foreign corporations typically enter a country, extract the country’s resources or energy, displace and otherwise harm native peoples, and then leave, having provided little to no benefit to the host