Monday, March 29, 2010

Prepared statements: Pittsburgh City Council: Garment workers are not rocksalt

To be presented at Pittburgh City Council - March 30, 2010

KENNETH MILLLER, Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance, 412-867-9213

The Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance participated in a celebration of Martin Luther King Day with garment workers in Bangladesh this year. It was an opportunity for us to discuss what we have in common and our shared hopes for the future. Two action items were put into motion during that celebration. Workers decided to:

SOLICIT testimony from union members that work is specific factories that have entered into contractual arrangements with the City of Pittsburgh

VISIT Pittsburgh to deliver this testimony.

Members of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity will be here on Tuesday April 27, 2010, less than one month from now.

I know that this community is against sweatshop working conditions and that we support Human Rights. This Council and the Ravenstahl Administration are eager to enforce our anti sweatshop ordinance.

The ordinance is designed to leverage our procurement of apparel. Immediately, you can see several obstacles:

The apparel we are referring to has already been purchased. The policy cannot be implemented by guiding a procurement decision/we have contracts that have to be remediated.

We have purchasing agreements with Allegheny County and it is unclear exactly who executed the contracts that procured this apparel.

THIS IS THE BIG ONE: The success of any anti sweatshop procurement policy is about our ability to leverage procurement. It follows that the larger the procurements being leveraged, the more successful the outcome, the more effectively we will meet the intention of our law.

Often, intergovernmental cooperation is lauded as the best way to achieve efficiencies in government or leverage government dollars in the market place to save money. My message to you today is that GARMENT WORKERS are not ROCKSALT. You need the governments of Allegheny County and the State of PA to respond to the testimony you will receive on April 27. Your work with these governments will require a little more persistence and rigger than the kind of work you might apply to determine benefits the city might receive from a contract for rocksalt.

Timothy Johnson at Allegheny County’s Department of Administrative Services has the list of factories that the City of Pittsburgh has been supplied by and is able to affirm that these are specific factories we are reviewing testimony from on April 27. John Dieghan in Procurement is requiring venders to promise that the apparel they are providing is not made in sweatshop working conditions. The testimony we will receive on April 27 will directly contradict the bid specifications that were agreed to.

Governor Rendell has asked Secretary Creedon to rigorously implement his anti sweatshop Executive Order of 2004. The City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County will need to work with them and enter into specific agreements… such as a “SweatFree Consortium” or a joint contract with a credible 3rd party investigator. Secretary Creedon and his staff are very alert to the logistical and financial difficulties the implementation of this legislation could have on cities such as ours and have developed strategies that take this into account.

The Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity is coming here with the clear and reasonable expectation that we will RESPOND to their testimony in a way that empowers them to exercise their Human Rights and be able to go to work in a garment factory that is not a sweatshop. Please, Council President Harris, arrange for them to come and present their testimony here in City Council at 2 PM on Tuesday April 27.

What needs to be done in preparation for April 27 is difficult. This is not an intergovernmental agreement about rocksalt. This is about human beings. This is responding to people telling us about Human Rights abuses they are experiencing and that we have a legal mandate to address. I believe that this Council has the fortitude, where-with-all, intelligence and commitment to Human Rights.

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