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