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LAUSD Adopts Anti-Sweatshop Code

March 25, 2004|Nancy Cleeland | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Unified School District has adopted one of the nation's most sweeping anti-sweatshop measures, requiring suppliers of everything from desks to scissors to disclose where and how those products were made and guarantee that workers making them earn a "non-poverty" wage.

The LAUSD code, which comes as the budget-strapped district gears up for a major school expansion, is far broader than those adopted by universities and municipalities in recent years.

Most such policies apply only to school-branded clothing, items sold in school bookstores or police and fire uniforms.

The district spends about $500 million on procurement each year for general services and supplies such as pencils, and all of it will fall under the code approved unanimously by the district board Tuesday night.

"At least on paper, it's more far-reaching than anything I've seen from any institution," said school board member David Tokofsky, who first proposed the measure more than a year ago. "We're buying dozens of buses, thousands of forks, soccer balls, furniture and flags. Who knows where all this stuff comes from and what circumstances it's made under?"

The measure requires the district's thousands of vendors to provide detailed information in bid documents on the source of goods, including the manufacturing site.

That information will be available to the public, and activists can check it for known labor law offenders. District personnel also will make periodic visits to some suppliers.

Otherwise, however, the district did not pledge any money for enforcement. Backers led by former state Assemblyman Tom Hayden, who co-directs the group No More Sweatshops, had wanted the district to spend about $125,000 on a third-party certification group.

Vendors must pledge in their bid documents not to violate labor laws and to pay a "non-poverty" wage, a provision created by the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees. The penalty for a violation is $1,000 plus certain damages, and the vendor would be permanently barred from doing business with the district.

As an example of a more limited measure, the University of California's code covers university-branded clothing and goods sold in campus bookstores. Last year, then-Gov. Gray Davis signed a state measure that covers uniforms and accessories for state workers such as Highway Patrol officers.

Erika Zeitlen, spokeswoman for No More Sweatshops, said the group was looking at the LAUSD code as a template. A similar measure is being considered by the Los Angeles City Council.

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