Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Blue-Collar City Takes Stand on Sweatshop Clothing

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Blue-Collar City Takes Stand on Sweatshop Clothing

Article excerpt

ANS--A national agreement to limit sweatshop labor in the apparel industry has begun tearing at the seams, with labor and industry leaders split on several key issues.

But in Bangor, Maine, an alliance of activists and merchants, with the support of the city council, is taking a stand on the global issue of exploitation in the workplace.

Retailers such as Paul Cormier, owner of Cormier's Clothing, a men's clothing store in downtown Bangor, are putting pressure on their suppliers to change their sweatshop practices.

Cormier said that an American clothing manufacturer--which he would not name--recently moved some of its clothing manufacturing to Taiwan. Yet Cormier said that he had to pay the same price for the shirts regardless of the fact that they were being made for a fraction of the price overseas.

"I said, `Hey, who's taking a profit here?'" Cormier said. "I asked them to just ship what's made in the USA. If we paid those people a living wage our foreign aid to [those third world countries] would go down to nothing."

Cormier is a member of the Clean Clothes Campaign, a local activist group formally backed by the city. In June of last year, Bangor became one of the first municipalities in the country to take a stand against sweatshop production of clothing, in a nonbinding resolution passed by the city council.

Today, the campaign continues to grow as more retailers sign on, pledging to find out from their suppliers if the shoes and clothes that are made overseas are manufactured in humane conditions. There are now 500 consumers participating in the campaign, and 19 Bangor-area retailers that are developing "clean clothes" inventories, helping to educate the public about the global sweatshop economy, and communicating with suppliers about the desire for sweatshop-free products. …

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