Stop Funding Sweatshops with Taxpayer Money


Target: Dan Tangherlini, General Services Administration Administrator

Goal: Support fair labor practices by not funding sweatshops with taxpayer dollars

More than a dozen United States government agencies go through the General Services Administration (GSA) for their workers’ uniforms. The GSA contracts out to private companies in order to provide goods and services “at the best value possible.” In some cases, however, this comes at a cost the Obama administration has warned private companies against: sourcing clothing from sweatshops.

The American government is one of the world’s biggest clothing consumers, spending roughly $1.5 billion annually on garments manufactured overseas. An investigation by The New York Times revealed numerous human rights concerns with the GSA’s contracted companies, including “padlocked fire exits, buildings at risk of collapse, falsified wage records” and more. In Bangladesh, shirts sporting Marine Corps logos were manufactured in a plant using child labor. Physical harassment has been reported by workers at a Thailand factory that produces clothing for the Smithsonian Institute.

Too often, federal agencies fail to audit their contractors for human rights and labor abuses. Technically what the GSA does isn’t illegal–but this doesn’t make it right. Tell the United States government to audit it’s contracts, and to stop supporting sweatshop labor with taxpayer dollars.


Dear Mr. Tangherlini,

A recent investigation by The New York Times revealed dangerous working conditions and other human rights concerns at factories contracted by your agency. This is hardly responsible spending–to source clothes from workers in Haiti making just 72 cents an hour, and from Cambodian factories using child labor.

As one of the largest buyers of clothing in the world, the American government is in a unique position to support international human rights by ending its support of sweatshop labor. Agencies including the Army, Air Force, Transportation Security Administration and Forest Service make up more than $1.5 billion in contracts just for uniforms and other clothing. Saving money is important, but it isn’t the only concern. Agencies often aren’t required to audit their contracts to ensure ethically sourced goods and services.

Rather than going to companies with known labor concerns, this money could employ American workers. It could raise the standard of living for workers in developing countries, rather than supporting low wages and dangerous conditions. But regardless of how procurement policies might change, change is necessary. I urge you to audit all procurement contracts, and to end the GSA’s support of sweatshop labor today.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: marissaorton via Flickr

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