University of Wisconsin students extract anti-sweatshop pledge from chancellor
Students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison have extracted promises from the university to require full disclosure of the working conditions at all work sites involved in the production of UW-licensed apparel, that a living wage be paid to all those employed at those production sites, and that women workers at these sites be provided protection from sexual harassment and maternal leave. "In other words, it was time to stop hiding the facts about university profiteering off of sweatshops, and to take substantive action to end sweatshop labor conditions," according to one of the protesters.
Student organizations presented years of educational programs and agitation about the sweatshop conditions under which clothing emblazoned with the University of Wisconsin is manufactured, both in the U.S. and abroad. "But the administrators had not listened to us. For months and years we had leafletted, testified, editorialized, cajoled and passed resolutions, all to only limited success," Ben Manski reports in the March/April issue of Infusion. Students escalated their campaign on February 8th when 250 students rallied in front of the administration building, and 30 occupied the building the first night.
The sit-in received assistance from the University of Wisconsin Federation of Labor, and the South Central Federation of Labor. Leaders of the University of Wisconsin's Asian American Student Union, the Black Student Union and MEChA joined the protestors and stayed overnight. The occupation almost doubled in size each day it went on, and included two outside support rallies and solidarity messages from "all over Wisconsin and across North America."
The escalation proved too much for the administration, and Chancellor Ward, distressed that the protest was stealing headlines from the university's sesquicentennial celebrations, agreed to meet with the students 92 hours later. After 5 hours of negotiations, the students demands were met. Leading groups in the organizing were UW-Madison Alliance for Democracy/180 Movement for Democracy and Education and the Madison Anti-Sweatshop Coalition.
And at Duke ...
A week before the Wisconsin protests, in January, a 31-hour sit in resulted in an agreement by the administration on the need for full disclosure of the locations and working conditions of factories producing Duke goods.
And at Georgetown ...
Twenty-eight students took over the office of the Georgetown University President on February and occupied it for 85 hours. "Our demand was full disclosure of the contracts from companies who make our [Georgetown's] licenced clothing" said Frank Salamone, one of the protestors.
Source: Infusion. Infusion is the national magazine for progressive campus activists, produced by the Center for Campus Organizing. Subscriptions are $25 ($10 low income) from CCO, 165 Friend St., #1, Boston, MA 02114. www.cco.org.
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