Anti-Sweatshop Movement - Boston College and the Movement

The anti-sweatshop movement consists of a coalition of labor, environmental, and social justice groups, local and international, government and nongovernmental, organized labor, community and student groups. Click here to learn more about the movement.

Universities often earn a significant amount of money by licensing the name and logo of the university and by selling clothes in its bookstores. Thus, universities need to be held responsible for ensuring that clothes with their logos are not made under abusive and exploitative conditions. Students on over 150 campuses are part of the national anti-sweatshop campaign and have had a direct effect on the movement's ability to force universities and corporations to publically disclose their factories. In Seattle last November, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) participated in a demonstration with over 60,000 labor, environmental, and human rights activists to protest the World Trade Organization neo-liberal policies. Not only was Seattle an inspiration to activists across the country, but it signaled a new kind of collaborative activism between trade unions and students. And, as a direct result of student activism in the movement, corporations like Nike and Champion have begun to disclose the locations of their factories.

The USAS movement continues to grow. Recently USAS developed the Workers' Rights Consortium (WRC) in consultation with workers and human rights groups. The WRC is an effort to collaborate with workers, non-governmental organizations, and other colleges and universities to improve the conditions of workers producing collegiate apparel, using the leverage of licensing agreements. The code of conduct developed by the WRC includes provisions for a living wage, the right to organize, the protection of women's rights, public disclosure, and independent monitoring. Sit-ins, occupations, and demonstrations which characterized the beginning of the student movement were widely successful strategies. Many campuses have signed on to the WRC, while others are just getting started, and others still have been weighed down by negotiations with university administrations.

The Anti-Sweatshop Advisory Committee at Boston College

In 1997-98, students associated with the Boston College Peace and Justice Coalition took the initiative in bringing the sweatshop issue to the attention of the Boston College community. The following year, an advisory committee of faculty members, administrators, and students came into existence, with the approval of Fr. William P. Leahy, S.J., and chaired by the Vice President for University Mission and Ministry, to gather inforamtion about the issues and to recommend policies. Boston College is represented for licensing purposes by the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) and subscribes to the code of conduct developed by a number of CLC-related universities.

In June of 1999, in opposition to student coalition recommendations, Boston College joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the monitoring arm of the Apparel Industry Partnership, a task force organized by President Clinton. There was much student opposition to universities joining the FLA due to its lack of provisions and support for workers right to organize, a living wage, full disclosure of factory locations, women's rights, and independent monitoring systems. There are 130 universities listed as members of the FLA; however they are afforded only one vote, compared to 6 for corporations and 6 for non-governmental organizations. Since Boston College joined, the FLA has pledged to improve its charter; however there remains many issues. Read a comparative view of the FLA and WRC here.

The CLC code of conduct , like the FLA, currently does not provide strong support for workers right to organize, a living wage, and independent monitoring systems. However, as a result of student pressure, the CLC has attached two addendums to its code: full public disclosure of factory locations and women's rights. And, as of December 1999, Boston College asked all licensees who manufacturer apparel and other products for Boston College to disclosure factory information to the public. A hard copy of this inforamtion is available in O'Neill Library.

Additionally, on March 30, 2000, Boston College administration agreed to join the WRC and participated in its founding conference on April 7, 2000! As a member of WRC, Boston College will promote and help monitor a code of conduct guaranteeing the rights of apparel workers in emerging nations to organize and engage in collective bargaining. The code also mandates the protection of workers' health and safety, compliance with local labor laws, protection of women's rights, and prohibition of child labor, forced labor and forced overtime. In joining the WRC, Boston College will maintain its membership in the Fair Labor Association.

In 1999-2000, Boston College, along with Duke University, Georgetown University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, sponsored a pilot project to study the issues related to applying codes of conduct to factories in the developing world that produce apparel bearing university logos. This study was developed by the CLC and carried out by Verite, a third-party, non-profit monitoring entity. The study only only revealed violations in some factories, but provided a greater understanding as to the many issues that must be considered when working with licensees to bring factories into compliance with labor and human rights standards. A copy of this study can be obtained through the Legal Department at Boston College.

And during the Summer of 2000, Boston College supported an USAS research project and funded an undergraduate student to spend the Summer in Indonesia. CARI is an immersion program of USAS that conducts research and supports partnership building in apparel producing regions around the world. Read about BC graduate Deep Mayell's experiences here.


-Boston College and the Movement
-Collegiate Apparel Research Initiative (CARI) in Indonesia
-A Comparative Look: FLA vs. WRC




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