SweatFree on Lou Dobbs


As we've reported extensively here, countries such as China use unfair and often inhumane labor practices in order to gain competitive advantage in world trade. Now state and local governments all across this country are taking action to protect American workers from similar conditions. A movement called SweatFree Communities is promoting new legislation, and that movement is gaining momentum. Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eric Odier-Fink and his wife are preparing to reopen a clothing shop in Bangor, Maine. His store, Justice Clothing, has a twist. Everything sold is union made.

ERIC ODIER-FINK, JUSTICE CLOTHING: The union label guarantees that these people have decent pay, they have benefits, they have job protection and security. And that's -- and that's really what matters.

SYLVESTER: Justice Clothing, which also retails online, is smart of a movement called SweatFree Communities. The organization has convinced at least five states and dozens of cities and municipalities, including Los Angeles, to pass some type of SweatFree law. Local governments agree to buy products from only contractors who pledge to pay their workers a fair wage, limit work hours and allow the employees to form a union.

BJORN CLAESON, SWEATFREE COMMUNITIES: These laws are actually filtering out the worst of the abusers who don't want to sign a code of conduct or don't want to publicly disclose where their factories are located from submitting bids to state and local governments.

SYLVESTER: Connecticut is the latest state to consider mandating SweatFree rules for all state-purchased apparel, including police uniforms and University of Connecticut paraphernalia.

MATT BATES, UNION LABEL SERVICE TRADERS, AFL-CIO: The more that you see these global trends accelerating with sweatshop labor, with exploitation of children, with the outsourcing and hemorrhaging of good jobs, you see increased concern on the part of consumers. SYLVESTER: Studies have shown that many consumers are willing to spend a little more to ensure fair labor conditions.


SYLVESTER: And three separate studies by Maryland University, Marymount University and the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 76 to 86 percent of consumers surveyed were willing to pay more for products made under fair working conditions. That certainly makes a strong case that there are a number of conscientious consumers out there -- Lou.

DOBBS: Millions of them, in point of fact. And millions of consumers who now understand those prices are related to wages. And everyone in this country wants to make a living wage. Thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester. Fascinating report.