Sweat-free students won’t rest

Students Against Sweatshops led a mock funeral procession Monday, which began at M.D. Anderson Library and ended outside UH President Renu Khator’s office in the Ezekiel W. Cullen Building.

Participants carried a coffin and delivered a eulogy for the "death of sweatshop worker’s rights," at the University.

The group also said Monday it will continue to hold protests until Khator officially supports the Designated Suppliers Program, a program guaranteeing workers fair wages and working conditions, members said.

"It should be a high priority that UH takes the moral high ground and joins the DSP like so many other universities have," SAS leader Timothy O’Brien said.

"Forty other universities, including the number one public university in the country, the University of California at Berkley, have already joined."

Members said the funeral was in protest of UH’s failure thus far to become a member of the Worker’s Rights Consortium and join the organization’s DSP.

In response to the group’s concerns, the University formed Apparel Task Force at UH, composed of five UH faculty members, one staff member and student representative and Student Government Association Senate business senatorS Stephen Quezada.

"The University of Houston Apparel Task Force hopes to complete its inquiry and make recommendations to UH President Renu Khator by June," University spokesman Eric Gerber said in a release.

Khator responded to members of both SAS and Students for Fair Trade after a demonstration on March 3 with letters stating both groups should end "disruptive behavior."

Quezada said members of the task force would look at the facts before making any decisions.

"The reason this task force was created was so all of us could be more educated about the issues that the SAS is raising, and it will take some time to ensure that we have accurate information before making a decision on a policy concerning UH’s involvement with the DSP," Quezada said.

Since the organization’s creation in June 2007, graduate student and group founder O’Brien and members have attempted to persuade UH administrators to sign the DSP to ensure UH does not accept apparel from manufacturers whose employees work in sweatshop conditions.

O’Brien said Adidas, the University’s primary apparel supplier, engages in sweatshop practices and even cited the WRC findings of an Adidas factory in China in violation of several labor laws to provide social insurance, adequate worker wages and safe working conditions.

O’Brien said the task force should have more student representation because having just one representative hinders progress.

"It is very difficult to get our message and accomplish what we want to when we have only one student represented in the group," O’Brien said. "On top of that, SAS is not getting the kind of support we need and expect from Quezada, who is supposed to be representing the voice of the students."

O’Brien said SAS will continue their mission to promote sweatshop worker’s rights at the University and said he plans to hold more events until the end of the semester, including a visit from a Tijuana sweatshop worker on April 17.

"People need to be aware of what’s really going on with these workers, and we can’t accomplish what we need to without the administration," O’Brien said.

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