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Friday, July 26, 2013

Fashion Safety -- Mandating Sweat-Free Garment Labels: Feasible Under the First Amendment

JURIST Columnist Ruthann Robson of the CUNY School of Law argues that requiring manufacturers to label clothing as "sweat-free" is feasible under the First Amendment...
"Buying a shirt is an ethically fraught endeavor. This is nothing new: the production of clothes has long been interwoven with slavery, indentured servitude, "wage slavery," immigrant labor, and child labor. But domestic change did occur, albeit gradually and incompletely, despite powerful forces of resistance. Today, regulation of working conditions, while still contested in specific instances, is legal orthodoxy.

"Global free trade, however, is a reiteration of the once-dominant domestic acceptance of complete
laissez-faire. Just as we once believed there was no national power to regulate state and local working conditions, we now accept that there is no national power to regulate foreign working conditions. It is possible, although unlikely, that the US could use trade policies to address situations such as the Rana Plaza building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 people, almost all of them garment workers.

"Corporations would undoubtedly challenge any such regulations, including arguing that the labeling is compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment. Although commercial speech is less highly valued than political speech, this argument has achieved varying levels of success in assorted circumstances involving labeling requirements.

Ruthann Robson, Mandating Sweat-Free Garment Labels: Feasible Under the First Amendment, JURIST - Forum, June 10, 2013,

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