The sweatshop protesters' sit-in continued for a second day after their demands were not met. Tension rose in College Hall yesterday as the 13 students protesting Penn's sweatshop policies continued their now two-day-old sit-in in University President Judith Rodin's office, settling in to spend a second night in the building. Although the students -- part of the United Students Against Sweatshops group -- are receiving national attention from the media with the ongoing sit-in and yesterday's rally on College Green, they have yet to get the desired response from Rodin in their quest to change the monitoring organization for University-logo apparel. After a 20-minute meeting with the group yesterday morning, Rodin said that she would not withdraw from the Free Labor Association -- a monitoring organization USAS says is biased and ineffective. But she did not rule it out, saying that she wanted to wait until a recently appointed committee on the matter can examine the issue. Three members of USAS will sit on the committee, which Rodin said would report back by the end of the month. USAS has long been calling upon Rodin to leave the FLA and join the Worker Rights Consortium. They imposed a February 1 deadline upon the Penn administration to make the change. But their deadline has come and gone without any results and the group has begun the sit-in and other demonstrations. "The WRC is better than the FLA because it involves the beneficiaries of the agreements -- the workers," said College freshman Lincoln Ellis, a USAS member. "I want it to be clear that the University has taken a very principled stand," Rodin said. "We are deeply concerned about the plight of workers in underdeveloped countries." But USAS has dismissed the creation of the committee as a "stall tactic" on the part of the University and they held the protest rally yesterday to further communicate their position to the administration. Administrators insisted that they ultimately had the same goals as the students and just needed more time to review the situation. "Everybody wants fair labor standards," said Steve Schutt, Rodin's chief of staff. "[It's a] question of which of two organizations are best set up to help Penn achieve good." And Associate General Counsel Eric Tilles added that "it's a little disheartening to see students saying we're stalling." Still, loud clapping, drum-playing, speeches and cheers echoed across College Green yesterday afternoon as more than 50 students -- mainly USAS members -- and community members rallied against the sweatshop policies. The crowd joined in on chants of, "No justice, No peace" and, "The people united will never be defeated." Following a series of speakers from local and national organizations in support of the cause, the rally moved inside College Hall. Wharton sophomore Brian Kelly, one of the speakers, invited everyone in attendance at the rally to go inside and meet the members of USAS. "Find out what they're doing," Kelley said. "These 13 students are making a stand for human rights." College senior Miriam Joffe-Block, one of the leaders of the USAS group, said she and the other members "had no real expectations" as to how many students would actually attend the rally. But, Joffe-Block continued, pointing to the excited crowd as they sang inside College Hall, "This means a lot to us?. It's really inspiring." Bearing signs indicating their support, representatives from the Penn Environmental Group, the Penn's Women's Alliance, local Teamsters and Temple University students were among the supporters on College Green. Thomas Wheatley came from the National Labor Committee in New York City to attend the rally. "I bring solidarity from NYC," Wheatley exclaimed. "Let's fight for human rights," he said, as the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. Traveling to Philadelphia from Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Student Labor Action Project, Treston Faulkner said he was pleased at the level of emotion and excitement that he said he saw among Penn students. "This is strategic," Faulkner said. "This action is going to set the pace for the rest of the semester." College sophomore Nati Passow and other USAS members emphasized the importance of both student and community involvement. Now, according to Joffe-Block, Rodin should recognize that the group has "the support of the students and the community." Amid increasingly loud cries inside College Hall, Joffe-Block announced a vigil to take place on College Green today at 9:30 p.m. The crowd dispersed only after signing the over 10 signs posted in College Hall supporting the demands of USAS. USAS members say they are prepared to take off even more time from class. "The students will be here as long as possible," Kelly said.Comments powered by Disqus
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