When students go to the University Bookstore to buy an Albino White and Scarlet Red T-shirt, their biggest concern is probably the high cost of their Cougar pride. They probably don’t stop to think whether the clothes could be sweatshop-sourced garments.
The Student Government Association passed legislation Jan. 16 calling for UH’s affiliation with both the Worker’s Rights Consortium and the Designated Suppliers Program (see story, Page 1).
The two organizations can ensure the University buys most of its apparel from suppliers who pay their workers a living wage and allow their employees the right to organize and bargain collectively rather than using sweatshop labor.
The DSP is an agreement by a university to buy most of its apparel from suppliers who have been verified by the WRC – an independent labor – rights monitoring organization that conducts investigations of working conditions in factories across the world.
In order to gain approval, the SGA bill must go through the University Coordinating Commission where its recommendations are later approved by the UH administration.
An institution that has its roots grounded in the idea of providing opportunities for the working class should not even appear to play a part in the exploitation of factory workers.
Purchasing apparel from suppliers who subject their employees to harsh working conditions may help the University earn a few extra bucks, but it will only weaken its foundation.
Should UH affiliate itself with WRC, the university Code of Conduct would provide that any garment bearing the University logo would be sourced from a sweat-free workplace.
The Code of Conduct would comprise a list of rules that any affiliated university must follow, including regulations regarding wages and benefits, child labor, working hours, health and safety, women’s rights, abuse and overtime compensation.
According to the WRC Web site, more than 175 colleges and universities nationwide support the organization, but because not enough schools have signed on to the DSP, the program is still not in practice.
It’s important for the University to take steps now to ensure UH promotes fair and healthy work environments in the future.
If UH administration approves the sweatshop legislation, students will be able to don their Cougar red proudly, knowing that it’s sweat-free.