News From Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan - 37th Assembly District

March 25, 2002

Nolan Passes "Apparel Workers' Protection Act"

Legislation to protect workers who work in the apparel industry has passed the Assembly according to Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, the bill's sponsor.

The bill, entitled "The Apparel Workers' Protection Act" authorizes the Commissioner of the Department of Labor to publish on the Internet a listing of those persons or entities investigated by the Department or the Special Task Force on the Apparel Industry and found not to be in compliance with the law. Any retailer, manufacturer or contractor seeking verification of the registration status of a manufacturer or contractor shall be provided with reference to this web listing.

The bill also amends the labor law to empower inspectors from the Special Task Force to evacuate and close any premises deemed to be in serious violation of the applicable fire code.

"In spite of serious efforts to eradicate sweatshops, workers continue to be victimized by unscrupulous apparel industry employers. This legislation is intended to alert retailers, customers and the marketplace generally, to those who have violated the protective laws of our state," said Nolan.

"Publishing information relating to sweatshop violations on the world wide web is a practice utilized by the United States Department of Labor. It is current practice for retailers, manufacturers and contractors to contact the Department of Labor to confirm the registration status of manufacturers and contractors they are considering for contract. This bill would require that upon such a confirmation request, the Department would also provide a reference to the Web site so that the inquiring entity would be able to check on the violation history," said Nolan.

"The Special Task Force should be empowered to immediately close an apparel factory if a serious fire violation exists. A recent exposé by the New York Daily News discovered "blocked, locked or poorly placed fire exits at every site they visited. Since Special Task Force inspectors are trained to recognize fire hazards, they should also have the authority to affirmatively act upon notice of a serious fire code violation, and to close a site pending investigation by the local authorities," said Nolan.

The bill now goes to the Senate where it awaits action.