Law requiring city contractors to disclose slavery links is passed

Banks, clothing manufacturers and insurance companies will have to disclose any past connections to the slave trade if they want to do business with the city of San Francisco.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a slavery era disclosure ordinance Tuesday that gives city contractors nine months to prove under oath that they searched for historical documents that would show ties to the slave trade and the results of that search.

“It’s important that this country and San Francisco apologize and are aware of the slavery. We cannot just let it go and assume it didn’t happen,” said Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, author of the ordinance.

Insurance polices, loan documents and other records show some companies that are still around today profited from slavery.

While there are no penalties should a contractor reveal ties to the slave trade, contractors are encouraged to donate money into a fund that will be established under the legislation. The fund will be used to pay for educational programs and developments “designed to ameliorate the effects of slavery” on San Francisco residents.

All companies that provide financial, insurance or textile services for The City are covered by the legislation.

The legislation follows passage of the state’s first slavery era accountability ordinance, which required all insurance companies to research their archives and provide the state with any information that linked them to the slave industry.

Other cities have similar ordinances, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland and Berkeley.

It’s unclear if any of The City’s contractors had ties to the slave trade. The City has contracts with at least 10 textile companies and has more than $1 billion deposited in interest-bearing accounts in a number of banks, including Bank of America.

“The Bank of America is currently examining its records to determine if it participated or profited from slavery,” Maxwell said.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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