While the students protesting Penn's sweatshop policies may have been in the media spotlight for the past week during their nine-day College Hall sit-in, a number of colleges and universities across the country have already had their share of the limelight. About a year ago, students at Cornell, Princeton, Harvard and Yale universities all held highly publicized sit-ins demanding workers' rights for school-logo apparel. Duke and Georgetown universities also staged similar protests at this time last year. As a result of those demonstrations, many schools have been forced to release information about factory locations and to examine labor conditions. But while the protests have definitely raised awareness of the issue, students at the schools say they are still fighting to ensure that their schools develop acceptable labor codes and join appropriate monitoring organizations. Penn Students Against Sweatshops ended its sit-in at College Hall yesterday when it reached a deal with University President Judith Rodin under which Penn agreed to withdraw from the Fair Labor Association. PSAS has continually asserted that the FLA is biased and inaccessible and instead favors the Worker Rights Consortium. Although not all students across the country hold the same specific beliefs as PSAS, all share the same goal --Eensuring better working conditions in clothing factories that manufacture their schools' apparel. About 300 Princeton students held a rally last February calling for full public disclosure of factory locations and fair wages for sweatshop workers. As a result, the university passed a resolution calling for disclosure of factory locations and safer working conditions. "I think there's been agreement on all sides that the university does not want its name on anything produced under sweatshop conditions," said Robert Durkee, vice president of public affairs at Princeton. Students at Brown also rallied this fall in support of the Worker Rights Consortium. Eventually, Brown agreed to join the WRC, but it has also remained a member of the FLA. Brown Student Labor Alliance member Nicholas Reville, a junior, said the students are now working to convince the Brown administration to drop the FLA. Reville praised the effort Penn students made this week. "Brown is really inspired by the sit-in at Penn? and it will catalyze a lot of action across the country," Reville said, noting that Brown students held a rally last week to support the efforts of Penn's anti-sweatshop group. Last March, at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, 30 students staged a 51-hour sit-in to urge the school to release a code of conduct for licensees that would help guarantee fair conditions for sweatshop workers. Due to their action, Michigan President Lee Bollinger issued an Anti-Sweatshop/Human Rights Policy requiring all of its licensees to disclose their manufacturing sites by January 1, 2000. "It seems from my perspective that the student action did kind of move the process along," Michigan spokesman Joel Seguine said. "The president made it very clear at the time of the sit-in that he respected [the students'] views." But some Michigan students have expressed their dissatisfaction with the speed of the deliberation and plan to hold a rally today. "We're going to pressure the university to join the WRC," Students Organized for Labor and Economic Equality representative Peter Romer-Friedman said. "Like Penn, we have a very strong labor community," the Michigan junior added. "We have support from workers, politicians and city councilpeople."Comments powered by Disqus
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