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Provincial Tips

No Sweat Provincial Procurement

We don't usually think of governments as a source of "consumer power," but governments buy far more apparel than do individual consumers. Your provincial government probably buys uniforms for prison guards, prisoners, park workers, and others.

Government procurement laws are another way to put pressure on abusive companies. Several US States have passed laws to ensure that the State government will not purchase clothing made under sweatshop conditions, and that suppliers make public the locations of the factories where clothes are made. As of 2007, only the province of Manitoba has adopted a No Sweat procurement policy - but that could change. Here's how.

Getting Started

1. What's bulk purchased? One of the first steps in getting a No Sweat procurement policy adopted is to find out what clothes are bulk-purchased by the government you are targeting. It will help if you can find proof that the government is using apparel made in countries where sweatshop abuses are common. You can do that by contacting a union local representing workers who wear uniforms and asking them to check tags to find out where they are made and by whom. As a resident, you should have access to a list of government suppliers, although it might take some time (and patience) to get that information, especially if you have to file a formal "Access to Information Act" request. You may want to restrict your request to apparel and footwear suppliers/manufacturers.

2. What's the current policy? Request a copy of the government's current purchasing policy, which is usually available from the province's web page.

Make sure provincial employees' unions endorse your campaign, and that it doesn't conflict with their own policies on where uniforms should be made.

3. Who's Responsible? Investigate which department of the government is in charge of purchasing. As well, contact the provincial legal department to assist you with the appropriate wording of the legislation. Contact potentially sympathetic MLAs/MPPs, or staff. If they are committed to progressive reform or have promoted fair wage policies in the past, they will likely support a No Sweat procurement policy. If possible, arrange a meeting with the interested officials and discuss what they would be willing to pursue and what you want to accomplish. Try to get commitments from officials to see the policy through. It is very important to have the support of a politician who will sponsor the legislation.

4. Keep up the pressure, especially during the period leading up to the vote on the bill. Start the campaign with a big, well-publicized event, with a well-known guest speaker. Invite a prominent and sympathetic academic, community or labour activist, entertainer or politician to speak at your event. Demonstrate broad support for the resolution by inviting faith, labour, community, human rights, and international development organizations to endorse and speak in favour of the resolution. Encourage them to write letters and to ask their members to write letters to the government supporting the measure. If possible, invite local businesses selling products made under fair conditions and local unionized manufacturers to support your proposal. They have an interest in seeing the government adopt these measures.


  • Combine traditional political lobbying with less traditional publicity-making stunts.
  • Make sure you have the support of provincial workers and their unions, and that their proposal is consistent with their policies on uniforms.
  • Lobby MLAs/MPPs to secure their support. Work with sympathetic politicians to identify others who might come on side. Try to get party leaders to support your proposal.
  • Solicit public support from prominent members of the community or former community leaders.
  • Petitions by constituents and letter-writing campaigns will help demonstrate widespread support for the policy. Attend sessions of the legislature en masse.
  • For more colourful and dramatic tactics, try some of the actions suggested in other sections, such as the student organizing campaigns.