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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Group posts unsanctioned banner

A banner calling for a UH official to sign an agreement regarding apparel suppliers to the University was removed from the Welcome Center entrance on Wednesday morning in accordance with University policy.

The banner urged Interim President John Rudley to enter the University into an ethical treatment of workers agreement and read "Rudley stop using sweatshop labor Sign the DSP."

The acronym DSP refers to the Designated Suppliers Program – an agreement by a university to buy most of its apparel from suppliers who have been verified by the Workers Rights Consortium. The Consortium calls for payable living wages and allows their employees the right to organize and bargain collectively.

According to the WRC, universities that sign the agreement also pledge to enter into long-term business relationships with the approved suppliers and make enough orders to ensure the majority of the suppliers’ work is in the collegiate market.

A spokesperson for UH Student Labor Action Project, whose name appeared on the banner, said the group’s goal is to draw attention to UH apparel suppliers’ practices.

"We will continue to do actions to try and bring attention to human rights causes, particularly around apparel workers as related to colleges and universities," the spokesperson said in an e-mail.

Representatives of the group, which is not an official student organization, spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid disciplinary actions by the University.

"It is too difficult to get the money for college to risk getting thrown out for an important human rights cause," the representative said in an e-mail. "It seems the administration only cares about furthering their own agenda and ignoring students."

In a full-page ad in The Daily Cougar on Sept. 26, UH administration said the University supports the Fair Labor Association code of ethics that addresses wages, bans child labor, mandates overtime pay and limits working hours to respond to fair trade coffee and ethical treatment of workers’ concerns.

Associate Dean of Students Kamran Riaz said groups must receive approval to post signs in or on buildings from the specific building’s manager.

"The person in charge of that building has the authority to say you can post or you can’t post it," he said. "The building manager has full authority."

Welcome Center Director Brooke Durbin said the sign was hung from the awning over the entrance, noting the location was both against University policy and unsafe.

"This isn’t an area where you can put signs," she said. "It’s dangerous for the students to be out there…. This clearly is not acceptable or safe."

Durbin said she had received no requests to post a banner outside the Welcome Center, and the location was not an appropriate one for safety reasons.

A UH SLAP spokesperson said safety was not among their concerns in posting the banner.

"We didn’t have any safety concerns, and if the administrators were so concerned with safety then they would look into the UH garment workers’ working conditions and see if they were healthy," the spokesperson said.

Forms are available requesting permission to post signs on campus online at the Dean of Students Web site, Riaz said.

"The approval process is not based on content," Riaz said. "We’re not in the business of censoring."

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