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OSHA chief presses for international focus

September 7, 2000
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Speaking at the VPPPA meeting, OSHA chief Charles Jeffress noted an emerging force in workplace safety and health advocacy: more than 50 U.S. college campuses have chapters of United Students Against Sweatshops. USAS seeks to persuade students as well as universities buying licensed apparel to boycott manufacturers that contract with overseas factories where workers labor for low wages in unsafe conditions.

“This group is expanding, and its influence is growing. It will be a short step from the focus on apparel to a focus on other consumer products,” said Jeffress.

Jeffress said the safety and health of “third-world workers hired by first-world companies” or their contractors was one of the primary issues driving protests against the World Trade Organization at its ministerial meeting in Seattle last November, and more recent protests against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in April and against the Organization of American States in Windsor, Ontario in June.

National and regional chapters of VPPPA may want to step forward independently to strengthen worker safety and health internationally, suggested Jeffress. “Perhaps you'd want to sponsor an international forum for workplace safety and health, showcasing best practices in the U.S. across a variety of industries. Or maybe you'd like to focus on a common hazard or problem with many possible solutions. You can share American ingenuity and perhaps benefit from creative ideas developed abroad as well.”

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