Student group encourages ‘sweat-free’ workplace

At the latest demonstration on Dec. 6, Students Against Sweatshops President Timothy O’Brien organized a "study-in" in front of UH Interim President John Rudley’s office to raise awareness about working conditions overseas.

UH student organizations Students Against Sweatshops and Students for Fair Trade staged demonstrations throughout the fall semester to raise awareness about the conditions apparel workers experience abroad.

"Anything that raises awareness is effective," O’Brien said. "If one person reads it, that’s awareness. We try to raise awareness any way we can."

The main objective for Students Against Sweatshops is to help promote sweat-free apparel, so that workers can produce clothing in a good work environment, O’Brien said.

"’Sweat-free’ means that the workers are treated fairly," he said. "The factories across the border – it’s a really toxic atmosphere, and they’re all over the world. Sweat-free items (are) produced in a manner where the workers are protected and treated like human beings with dignity like we want to be treated."

O’Brien, along with Students for Fair Trade President Ross Barnard, interrupted a Faculty Senate meeting in September after attempts to meet with Rudley failed, O’Brien said.

O’Brien also said Students Against Sweatshops will adopt more confrontational tactics than Students for Fair Trade, but only "if necessary." He did not specify what sorts of actions the organization would use.

Previous demonstrations that have taken place during the semester included hanging unauthorized banners on campus buildings, of which no one has claimed responsibility.

In early October, a banner posted in front of the M.D. Anderson Library read, "Pres Rudley lies U of H uses sweatshop labor for UH clothes," The Daily Cougar reported. The banner was taken down because of library policy, which does not allow groups to post material in front of the building. The Daily Cougar also reported that O’Brien said he was not involved, but agreed with the message on the banner.

Another banner was removed from the Welcome Center in November urging Rudley to sign the Designated Suppliers Program – an agreement guaranteeing the ethical treatment of garment workers. The banner was also taken down because of University policy and safety concerns, The Daily Cougar reported. The UH Student Labor Action Project, whose name appeared on the banner, is not registered as a student organization because the students involved did not want disciplinary actions levied against them, The Daily Cougar reported.

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