No sweat? Campus activists seek to ensure international worker’s rights

By on September 19, 2014

Cards United Against Sweatshops, a new group dedicated to ensuring that the campus bookstore sells Alta Gracia apparel, came to campus last semester. Alta Gracia is a factory which provides living wages to workers.

” I have already learned more about how we can make U of L play a bigger role in the fair trade movement and include sweatshop free clothing in our bookstores,” said Karen Udoh, who has been with the organization for over a month now.  “Also, I learned more about this sweatshop free factory in the Dominican Republic called Alta Gracia that provides a variety of collegiate clothing for universities in the United States. It would be awesome for U of L to have this partnership with the company.”  She originally heard about Cards United Against Sweatshops during the RSO fair at the beginning of the school year.

Last week, the group participated in a letter drop, with the intent of scheduling a meeting with President Ramsey. If they are able to meet, they hope convince him to let U of L’s bookstore source a significant amount of fair wage options within the campus’ bookstore.

This group a chapter under the umbrella foundation of “United Students against Sweatshops”, an organization that started a little more than a decade ago. The roots of this program stem from a movement of college campuses wanted a sweatshop free, fair-wage option in their bookstores.

“Independently, it is difficult for an individual to find out whether or not their clothing is truly coming from a fair wage factory. That is because the garment industry makes it intentionally difficult to find out if the clothing they are selling is legitimately sweatshop free,” said Jamie El-Mallakh, founder of Cards United Against Sweatshops.

Even if garment factory is not technically classified as a sweatshop, it does not necessarily mean the corporation is paying its workers enough to live on, said El-Mallakh.

“Just because it is a good garment factory by legal standards, it still does not mean they’re being treated as human beings,” he said.

Nationwide, several other universities have championed this fair-wage brand and, in some cases, are selling up to 30% of the total bookstore shirts directly from Alta Gracia. So far, the group has already have been able to make two t-shirts available for purchase in the U of L bookstore that are sweatshop free.

Photo Courtesy Cards United Against Sweatshops

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