Muni may win labor law waiver

The first contract to come under San Francisco’s landmark anti-sweatshop ordinance may be granted a waiver to allow The City to purchase Muni uniforms, according to officials.

In October, The City’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement wrote a letter to Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Board of Supervisors asking for “advice and intervention” on behalf of the advisory board created to oversee enforcement of the anti-sweatshop law.

The measure, passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in September 2005, governs city contracts to ensure that the products purchased are made in fair and humane working conditions. During this first year of implementation, the ordinance is limited to garment purchases.

Deputy City Controller Monique Zmuda, a member of the Sweatfree Procurement Advisory Group, said the vendor that supplies the Muni uniforms refused to comply with the portion of the sweatfree ordinance that requires the vendors to list the names and addresses of all their suppliers, including subcontractors.

The letter indicatedthat The City’s purchasing department staff has told the advisory group it will likely grant an exemption to this vendor so The City can continue to purchase Muni uniforms.

“We have a new class of [Muni] operators and inspectors graduating and they must have uniforms,” Muni spokeswoman Maggie Lynch said, adding that the agency is working to find a sweatfree-compliant vendor for future uniform needs.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who co-authored the ordinance along with Supervisor Tom Ammiano, said that while he understood the need for short-term solutions, The City would have to “determine ways to break hard nuts” in order to implement the law.

The passage of the anti-sweatshop ordinance came with an annual allocation of $100,000, part of which would be used to hire an independent monitor who could investigate worker abuse, even for subcontractors based in other countries, Zmuda said. She suggested to the advisory group that it investigate whether the names of the subcontractors can be provided to the monitor, but not made available to the public.

“What the committee wants first and foremost is to have people comply,” Zmuda said.

Joe Arellano, a spokesman for Newsom, said the mayor planned to send a top adviser to meet with the advisory group in January to “see what the Mayor’s Office can facilitate between them and The City.” Newsom has publicly championed the anti-sweatshop legislation.

beslinger@examiner.com

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