Mayor Rahm Emanuel is joining forces with Chicago Fair Trade, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) and his 13 colleagues in the City Council’s Asian-American Caucus on an anti-sweatshop ordinance that could change the way the city purchases millions of dollars in uniforms.
The ordinance will be introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting just weeks after the one-year anniversary of a garment industry disaster in Bangladesh, Thailand that killed 1,129 workers and injured 2,515 others.
It would require the city to purchase uniforms only from those garment vendors who sign affidavits ensuring there are no sweatshops anywhere in their supply chain, including sub-contractors.
Uniform contractors that fail to comply would be found in default. That would empower the city’s chief procurement officer to either terminate the contract and rebid or give the contractor a 30-day “opportunity to cure” the defect.
The ordinance defines “sweatshop labor” as any work performed by a person engaged by a contractor or sub-contractor that has “habitually violated laws of any applicable jurisdiction governing wages, employee benefits, occupational health and safety, non-discrimination or freedom of association.”
Abusive forms of child labor were defined as work performed by a person under 18 either, against their will, under threat, in violation of a jurisdiction’s minimum age requirement or the use of anyone under 18 for illegal activities including prostitution or the production or trafficking of illegal drugs.
Five percent of Chicago’s population is Asian-American. Statewide, Asian-Americans total 500,000 and represent, what Pawar has called the “fastest-growing block” of voters in Illinois.
The anti-sweatshop ordinance is the first piece of legislation to emerge from the Asian-American Caucus that includes Pawar and thirteen colleagues whose wards include chunks of Asian-Americans.