AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, sweatshops remain a blight on the world economy; in industries, ranging from textiles to agriculture to electronics, workers find themselves trapped in horrendous factory conditions, working for little pay, with few health and safety protections; and

WHEREAS, the international community watched in shock and disbelief as the death toll from the April 24, 2013, collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh rose to more than a thousand, making it one of the worst workplace disasters in history; and

WHEREAS, corporate-driven globalization has clearly been a force in driving down sweatshop wages, and creating an environment where restrictive employment practices and labor rights violations have become common; and

WHEREAS, sweatshops, and the low-wage economy they are a part of, accelerate the race to the bottom and result in lower-quality goods and services, hurting all workers and communities; and

WHEREAS, the majority of sweatshop workers are women, who report earning less than men, having fewer benefits and less access to medical and child care; they report lower workplace social status, with minimal access to on-the-job training, skills development and better employment; and

WHEREAS, sweatshops often recruit child labor and may be involved in human trafficking; and

WHEREAS, sweatshop employees often have no access to union membership, which would provide them the opportunity to have a say in their daily working lives, and make positive changes in their wages, workplace safety and other benefits; in many countries, the right to organize, although written in law, is weakly enforced and those attempting to form a union may be threatened or fired; and

WHEREAS, today' s workplace safety regulations owe much to the outburst of regulation and union organizing that emerged in the wake of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed 146 New York garment workers, mostly young immigrant women; and

WHEREAS, although the United States has stronger labor laws than many developing countries, it itself is not free of sweatshops; and

WHEREAS, our schools, hospitals, cities, counties and states may be subsidizing sweatshops by procuring uniforms, computers and other supplies from vendors that are part of sweatshop supply chains; and

WHEREAS, there are many drives today—led by students and schools, religious groups, consumer groups and other civil society organizations—to promote "sweat free" campuses, towns and cities; dozens of municipalities and several states have committed to a procurement process not tainted by sweatshop labor; and

WHEREAS, the AFT holds a nearly century-old commitment to decent work, human rights and worker rights around the world:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers encourage affiliates to partner with student coalitions, community groups, local union allies, and others to raise awareness of the blight of sweatshops and make every effort to support local sweat-free campaigns; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT encourage local and state affiliates to examine their investment choices in light of ethical investment principles; as major shareholders in investment portfolios and pension funds, we are well-placed to favor corporations whose suppliers respect worker rights, pay fair wages and improve working conditions; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT encourage members to be conscientious consumers in their clothing purchases by favoring responsible retailers; for example, we note that more than 100 brands have signed the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, committing them to health and safety reforms in overseas factories; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT support classroom activities tied to teaching human rights, where students can connect history to today's world events through examining issues such as sweatshops, child labor and gender equality.