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Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on U.S. Government Contracting with Sweatshops

The United States government has failed to ensure transparency and integrity in the government supply chain, and this has fostered international sweatshops and egregious labor law violations. We call on President Obama to end these appalling practices.

The U.S. government is a major buyer at the top of numerous global supply chains. Today’s New York Times investigation should outrage American taxpayers as they learn that their hard-earned tax dollars are funding factories with documented abusive and inhumane conditions, as we have seen in Bangladesh. Selling goods and services to the government is a lucrative business, in which many firms draw profit from the exploitation of workers subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.

The Obama administration should strengthen executive orders on procurement to ensure that companies earning profits from U.S. taxpayer dollars do not break labor laws and violate human rights at home and abroad. The administration should ensure transparency by mandating the disclosure of factory locations where workers produce these goods. In addition, the U.S. government should explicitly reward high-road companies that respect labor laws and workers’ rights.

Administrative action, however, is only the first step to ensuring suppliers obey the law consistently. To really crack down on harmful labor practices, Congress must also pass laws that require respect for labor rights as a condition of continuing as a contractor for the U.S. government. Additionally, contractors must be required to release all social audits and inspection reports to the U.S. government. Finally, the Department of Labor should establish a published list, GSA database and website on labor violations and government contractors.

Contact: Josh Goldstein 202-637-5018

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