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Sunday, February 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 15.0° F  Snow Freezing Fog
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Sweatfree protest focuses on city purchasing

There was a lot of hoopla over the anti-tax "tea parties" last week, but another group staged a protest a few blocks away from the Capitol, at the Capitol Station Post Office, on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

This protest was by the Sweatfree Purchasing Community and coincided with the release of a report, "Subsidizing Sweatshops" (read it at, which catalogs which public-sector apparel manufacturers use sweatshop labor.

"Especially during this economic crisis, we want our tax dollars to be benefiting working families," says group spokeswoman Vicki Kaplan. The city of Madison, she notes, has supported the anti-sweatshop campaign, but does give allowances for employees to purchase shoes from one manufacturer, Rocky Brands, which is singled out in the report for labor violations.

The mayor's office says it doesn't contract with any suppliers that use sweatshop labor, but on April 9 sent letters to suppliers that carry brands named in the report.

"We expect that you will respond constructively to the report," wrote Mayor Dave Cieslewicz in the letter, "by working with your suppliers, the city and other organizations as necessary to ensure that any labor rights and human rights violations are corrected and conditions for workers are improved."

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