Sweatshop stance too harsh?

San Francisco’s landmark anti-sweatshop ordinance has turned out to be too tough and needs to be relaxed, city officials said.

The ordinance, which was unanimously passed by the Board of Supervisors in 2005 and supported by Mayor Gavin Newsom, placed restrictions on city contracts to ensure garment-related products are manufactured in fair and humane working conditions. However, since its adoption, no company has met the requirements and several contracts have been signed after a waiver was granted.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano has introduced amendments to the law to give The City flexibility when entering into contracts. Instead of the law stipulating all of the requirements must be met, The City would be allowed to enter into a contract with whichever company meets more of the requirements.

The amendments, heard Thursday in the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee, were sent to the full board for a vote on Nov. 6. One of the sticking points for companies was their unwillingness to reveal their subcontractors and take on the liability if it’s discovered the subcontractors were in violation of the law.

Wade Crowfoot, Newsom’s director of government relations, supported the amendments. “We were introducing the strongest standards against sweatshops in the country,” Crowfoot said of the law. “We have to deal with reality here.”

The amendments drew criticism from former state Sen. Tom Hayden, also a member of the Sweatfree Procurement Advisory Group, who said they were “a backdoor way for undermining the standards in the ordinance.”

Ammiano said the ordinance is a “work-in-progress” and will request quarterly reviews.

Bill Jones, assistant director of purchasing for The City, said that since the law was adopted, about six contracts will or have been signed without having to follow the requirements, including a contract for Muni uniforms.

Jones said The City will soon have to bid out six other garment-related contracts. The contracts would be impacted by the amended legislation if the board approves those changes next month. The six contracts are valued at about $1.8 million a year, and include contracts for inmate clothing, police uniforms, police boots and fire protective clothing.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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