As the US government increases its efforts to monitor apparel industry labor practices and labor watchdog organizations call media attention to alleged abuses, US apparel manufacturers and retailers are under pressure to develop monitoring programs to prove that their plants and those of their contractors and sub-contractors abide by labor laws.

President Clinton’s Apparel Industry Partnership – a task force charged with addressing issues related to the eradication of sweatshops – has released a report recommending a”Workplace Code of Conduct” and “Principles of Monitoring,” which outline guidelines for minimum wages and employee age, time off allowances and factory monitoring practices, among other items. Though the guidelines were written with input from some apparel and footwear firms, others say the recommendations were influenced heavily by the unions.

In the meantime, the US Congress and state organizations are getting involved in the issue. Rep. George Miller (Democratic Party of California) has introduced the Child Labor-Free Consumer Information Act, which would establish a voluntary labeling program for clothing made in child labor-free plants. In California, the Coalition of Apparel Industries in California (CAIC) has proposed an alternative in its Apparel Industry Certification Program, through which a non-governmental board would establish uniform standards for compliance with all state and federal laws and regulations set by the manufacturers and contractors themselves.