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Schwarzenegger signs anti-slavery bill

September 30, 2010 | 11:14 am

Although it had been opposed by business groups, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation Thursday requiring major retailers and manufacturers doing business in California to disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery from the supply chain of goods they sell.

SB 657 by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) was approved after the governor was lobbied by fellow film actor Julia Ormond, president of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking.

"This legislation will increase transparency, allow consumers to make better, more informed choices and motivate businesses to ensure humane practices throughout the supply chain," Schwarzenegger said.     

The measure was opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Grocers Assn., which both said they oppose slavery and abusive treatment of workers but that the legislation would make California firms responsible for actions of those far outside the borders of the United States.        

"Grocers do not have the resources to monitor supplier employment practices, nor do they have the authority to enforce state  or federal labor law with regard to suppliers," the association wrote to lawmakers.

In response to opposition by Republican senators, Steinberg said the bill doesn't require companies to do anything to make sure products are not coming from sources involving slavery, only to disclose on their websites what, if anything, they are voluntarily doing.

Meanwhile, amid concern that many schools don't have drinking fountains available where kids eat, the governor also signed a bill that requires free water to be provided in all school service areas.

SB 1413 by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), was proposed by the governor earlier this year at a health summit.

"Adequate hydration is necessary for the academic achievement and health of students, so it’s important that all schools provide fresh, free water to their students throughout the day, including during mealtimes," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.         

He cited innovative actions by some schools, including the El Monte Union High School District, which provides bottled water as part of its meal service.

-- Patrick McGreevy