Student activists are gathering signatures to pressure the administration into accepting a code of conduct. Penn's Progressive Activist Network launched its "No Sweat" campaign this week in conjunction with the national United Students Against Sweatshops group in an attempt to raise awareness about sweatshops in the clothing industry. The sweatshop issue came under discussion last year as students from several universities held well-publicized sit-ins to demand that their schools develop codes of conduct prohibiting the use of sweatshop labor and disclosing the locations of all factories that manufacture apparel bearing the school's insignia. Last February, representatives from every Ivy League school -- except Penn, which chose to skip the meeting -- met in New York City to discuss possible guidelines. On Monday, PAN and USAS members set up a table on Locust Walk with an oversized T-shirt for students to sign in support of the campaign, and publicized its goal of forcing the University to establish a code of conduct for the factories which produce Penn-logo apparel. The students are demanding several points in the code, including full public disclosure of the locations of factories, a living wage for workers, women's rights and freedom of association. "We are trying to use our leverage as students at a large university to put an end to sweatshops? by trying to get our clothes at the bookstore made in 'sweat free' conditions," said College sophomore Harrison Blum, a member of both PAN and USAS. Currently, the Fair Labor Association -- a group of corporations and monitoring agencies -- exists to watch conditions in garment and other factories, but many anti-sweatshop proponents have called the FLA ineffective. In March, Penn and 16 other colleges and universities joined the FLA following high-profile student protests across the nation. "Companies can say, 'Yeah, we're monitoring factories,' but they have announced monitoring so people who run factories have time to clean it up for that particular day," said Wharton sophomore Brian Kelly, also a member of both PAN and USAS. Blum agreed that corruption exists within the FLA and that not knowing the exact locations of factories makes it difficult to monitor them. "The FLA is composed of and run by corporate interests," Blum said. "To put it simply, the bad guys are in charge of making sure they don't do anything wrong." Recently, two former factory workers from El Salvador came to the United States to speak out about being fired from Caribbean Apparel, the factory where entertainment personality Kathie Lee Gifford's clothing line is manufactured. They said they were fired because they attempted to organize a union and spoke out about poor factory conditions. Caribbean Apparel is a member of the FLA. Campaign organizers said the living wage component -- which aims to provide factory employees with a standard of living -- is also important for the improvement of worker conditions. From the typical $20 T-shirt, a factory worker receives 27 cents, said College senior Miriam Joffe-Block, a PAN and USAS member. In contrast, "the living wage pays for food, clothing [and] transportation -- enough to provide for the necessities of life," Joffe-Block said. PAN and the USAS also feel that freedom of association is important in order for workers to lobby for their rights and improve their conditions. "They work every day in terrible conditions without any opportunity to improve their lives," Joffe-Block said. So far, organizers said the campaign to raise awareness has been successful. "I'm kind of surprised, considering the apathy on Penn's campus, but there's been a lot of support and a lot of people wanting to get involved," Joffe-Block said."The t-shirt is like a petition.? We'll deliver it to the administration to show that students really do care about this issue."Comments powered by Disqus
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