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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.338

Introduced by Representatives Edwards of Brattleboro, Donovan of Burlington, Botzow of Pownal, Cheney of Norwich, Davis of Washington, Evans of Essex, Fisher of Lincoln, Gervais of Enosburg, Haas of Rochester, Jewett of Ripton, Minter of Waterbury, Nuovo of Middlebury, Ojibway of Hartford, Pearson of Burlington, Pellett of Chester, Pillsbury of Brattleboro, Randall of Troy and Weston of Burlington

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Executive branch; state purchasing; code of conduct

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to:  (1)  establish a code of conduct for contractors who supply apparel, footwear, or textiles to the state which would help ensure fair compensation for working people, protection of the health and safety of working people, and prevention of unlawful discrimination or abuse; (2)  require a contractor to sign an affidavit committing the contractor to the code of conduct; (3)  allow the commissioner of buildings and general services to take remedial action, including terminating a contract, for noncompliance with the code of conduct. 

AN ACT RELATING TO A STATE PURCHASING CODE OF CONDUCT

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  29 V.S.A. §§ 901–920  are designated as subchapter 1 which is added to read:

Subchapter 1.  General Provisions

Sec. 2.  29 V.S.A. chapter 49, subchapter 2 is added to read:

Subchapter 2.  State Purchasing Code of Conduct for Suppliers of Apparel, Footwear, or Textiles

§ 921.  Application of state purchasing code of conduct

            to certain bidders seeking contracts as part of

            competitive bid process; affidavit required

(a)  This subchapter applies to competitive bids for sale of apparel, footwear, or textiles pursuant to subchapter 1 of this chapter.

(b)  As used in this subchapter, unless the context otherwise indicates, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

(1)  “Code of conduct” means the state purchasing code of conduct that follows the principles set out in section 922 of this title.

(2)  “Commissioner” means the commissioner of buildings and general services.

(3)  “Independent monitor” means a nonprofit organization that is neither funded nor controlled, in whole or in part, by businesses that sell or manufacture apparel, footwear, or textiles.

(c)  The commissioner shall make a copy of the state purchasing code of conduct available to all bidders subject to this subchapter.

(d)  The commissioner shall not accept a bid for the sale of goods covered by this subchapter unless prior to the close of the bidding deadline, the bidder has filed with the commissioner a signed affidavit, executed and filed by a person authorized to commit the bidder to the code of conduct, stating that:

(1)  The bidder will comply with the code of conduct;

(2)  The bidder has furnished a copy of the code of conduct to each supplier at the point of assembly of the goods subject to the bid process and required that each supplier inform the bidder of whether the supplier is in compliance with the code of conduct; and

(3)  To the best of the bidder’s knowledge, each supplier at the point of assembly of the goods subject to the bid process is in compliance with the code of conduct, and the bidder has submitted a list of the names and addresses of suppliers at the point of assembly of goods subject to the bid process.

(e)  If, after complying with the filing requirements of this section, a bidder is awarded a contract, that contractor shall, during the term of the contract, promptly inform the commissioner of any change in the information furnished in the affidavit submitted at the time of the original bid and shall submit a new, updated affidavit that conforms to the requirements of subsection (d) of this section.

§ 922.  STATE PURCHASING CODE OF CONDUCT

(a)  The affidavit provided by the commissioner to bidders for contracts to provide goods covered by this subchapter shall include a copy of the following statement:

Vermont is a state that believes employers should fairly compensate hard work, that the health and safety of working people should be protected, and that no form of unlawful discrimination or abuse should be tolerated.  Vermont citizens are aware that laws and regulations designed to safeguard basic tenets of ethical business practice are disregarded in many workplaces, commonly referred to as “sweatshops.”  State government purchase of goods made under abusive conditions on behalf of the state’s citizens offends Vermont citizens’ sense of justice and decency.  Moreover, when the state of Vermont contracts with vendors whose suppliers profit by providing substandard wages and working conditions, Vermont’s businesses are put at a competitive disadvantage.  Therefore, the state of Vermont believes in doing business with vendors who make a good-faith effort to ensure that their suppliers and they at the point of assembly adhere to the principles of the state of Vermont’s purchasing code of conduct.

In its role as a market participant that procures goods covered by this code, the state of Vermont seeks to protect the interests of Vermont citizens and businesses by exercising its state sovereignty to spend Vermont citizens’ tax dollars in a manner consistent with their express wishes that the state deal with responsible bidders who seek contracts to supply goods to the state of Vermont, and protect legally compliant Vermont businesses and workers from unfair competition created by downward pressure on prices and conditions attributable to businesses that violate applicable workplace laws.

Seeking to protect these local interests through the least discriminatory means available, the state of Vermont requires that all bidders seeking contracts to supply the state of Vermont with goods covered by this code sign an affidavit stating that they and, to the best of their knowledge, their suppliers at the point of assembly comply with workplace laws of the vendor’s or supplier’s site of assembly and with treaty obligations that are shared by the United States and the country in which the goods are assembled.

(b)  With respect to goods covered by this subchapter, a company contracting with the state to supply those goods shall adopt and adhere to employment and business practices in accordance with this subsection.  A company shall:

(1)  Comply with all applicable wage, health, labor, environmental, and safety laws, legal guarantees of freedom of association, building and fire codes, and laws relating to discrimination in hiring, promotion, and compensation on the basis of race, disability, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and affiliation with any political, nongovernmental, and civic group except when federal law precludes the state from attaching the procurement conditions provided in this subchapter.

(2)  Comply with all human and labor rights treaty obligations that are shared by the United States and the country in which the goods are assembled. These may include obligations with regard to forced labor, indentured labor, slave labor, child labor, involuntary prison labor, physical and sexual abuse, and freedom of association.

§ 923.  EXCEPTION

The commissioner may accept a bid from and award a bid to a supplier who has not met the requirements provided in section 922 of this title if, after reasonable investigation by the commissioner, it appears that the required unit or item of supply or brand of that unit or item is procurable by the state from only that supplier.


§ 924.  SUPPORT TO SUPPLIERS OF GOODS AND SERVICES

The commissioner shall provide to bidders and contractors resources to assist with compliance with the state purchasing code of conduct established in this subchapter.  These resources shall include a list, easily accessed by the public, of bidders and vendors who have adopted the state purchasing code of conduct.

§ 925.  Rulemaking

The commissioner shall adopt rules under this subchapter governing the award of bids.  Those rules shall include specific guidelines for vendors to follow in order to comply with the state purchasing code of conduct and criteria for seeking disclosure of names and addresses of vendors’ suppliers and suppliers’ working conditions.

§ 926.  REPORT

By January 15 of each year, the commissioner shall submit a report to the house and senate committees on government operations concerning the administrative and fiscal impact of the requirement that vendors comply with the state purchasing code of conduct; the degree of voluntary compliance with the state purchasing code of conduct; the number of vendors who agreed to and the number that declined to comply with the provisions of this subchapter; and any other information relevant to the state purchasing code of conduct.


§ 927.  Complaints of noncompliance with code of

conduct; investigations of complaints

(a)  The commissioner shall initiate an investigation to determine whether a violation of the code of conduct has occurred if:

(1)  The commissioner has independent knowledge that a contractor or a supplier at the point of assembly of goods subject to a contract is not in compliance with the code of conduct.

(2)  The contractor informs the commissioner that the contractor or a supplier at the point of assembly of goods subject to a contract is not in compliance with the code of conduct.

(3)  A worker for a contractor or for a supplier at the point of assembly of goods subject to a contract files a written complaint directly with the commissioner stating that the contractor or supplier, to the best of the worker’s knowledge, is not in compliance with the code of conduct.

(4)  A third party established and based outside the United States, on behalf of or on the basis of information from a worker or workers, files directly with the commissioner a signed and dated written complaint stating that, to the best of the third party’s knowledge, a contractor or a supplier at the point of assembly of goods subject to a contract is not in compliance with the code of conduct.  If possible, the third party’s written complaint shall be signed and dated under oath before an official authorized to administer oaths.

(5)  A third party established and based in the United States, on behalf of or on the basis of information from a worker or workers, files directly with the commissioner a written complaint, signed and dated under oath before an official authorized by applicable law to administer oaths, stating that, to the best of the third party’s knowledge, a contractor or a supplier at the point of assembly of goods subject to a contract is not in compliance with the code of conduct.

(b)  Any complaint made to the commissioner shall state with reasonable specificity each reason a party subject to the complaint is allegedly not in compliance with the code of conduct.

(c)  After receiving a complaint alleging noncompliance with the code of conduct, the commissioner shall contact in a timely manner, in writing and by certified letter, the contractor that is the subject of the complaint or whose supplier is the subject of the complaint.

§ 928.  DETERMINATIONS OF NONCOMPLIANCE WITH CODE OF

            CONDUCT

(a)  In making a determination of whether a violation of the code of conduct has occurred, the commissioner may take into account any factors, information, sources of information, and materials determined reliable and relevant by the commissioner, as determined on a case-by-case basis.  The commissioner has specific authority and discretion to employ an independent monitor to investigate a complaint.

(b)  The determination of whether a party subject to a complaint is in compliance with the code of conduct is solely that of the commissioner.

(c)  After rendering a determination under this section, the commissioner promptly shall inform the complainant and contractor in writing.

§ 929.  CONSEQUENCES OF NONCOMPLIANCE WITH CODE OF

            CONDUCT

(a)  Upon determination of a violation of the code of conduct by a contractor or contractor’s supplier at the point of assembly of goods covered by this subchapter, the state, through the commissioner, shall inform the contractor and engage in discussions with the contractor about the violation. The purpose of the discussions is to work in partnership with the contractor to influence the contractor to change its practices or to use its bargaining position with the offending supplier to change the supplier’s practices, rather than to cease doing business with the contractor or supplier.  The commissioner shall prescribe appropriate measures to ensure compliance with the code of conduct. These measures may include, but are not limited to:

(1)  Requesting that each party found not to be in compliance with the code of conduct provide access to independent monitors, if available;

(2)  Requesting that each party found not to be in compliance with the code of conduct offer workers and managers the training and guidelines necessary to bring the workplace into compliance with the code of conduct; and

(3)  Requesting that each party found not to be in compliance with the code of conduct demonstrate to the commissioner that prescribed changes or improvements have been completed and implemented.

(b)  If, in the opinion of the commissioner, a contractor that has been determined as not in compliance with the code of conduct does not make

good-faith efforts to change its practices or use its bargaining position with an offending supplier to change the supplier’s practices, the commissioner may take appropriate remedial action, including barring the subject contractor from bidding on future state contracts or terminating the state’s contract with the contractor.  Reference to the authority given in this subsection shall be specifically referenced in the state’s contracts with those contractors that are subject to the code of conduct.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us