from The Daily CardinalTuesday, October 18, 2005

Administrators and students seek to limit amount of UW apparel made in sweatshops

By John Leppanen

Media Credit: Andrew Dorenfest/The Daily Cardinal

Members of the UW-Madison Labor and Licensing Policy committee meet Monday in Bascom Hall to discuss the purchasing of apparel produced in fair labor conditions.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Labor and Licensing Policy Committee met Monday afternoon to address what it considers to be a major problem in UW-Madison clothing: sweatshop labor. The LLC approved a proposal that seeks to eliminate sweat shops from the supply lines of brands that supply UW apparel.

The proposal contains two basic demands. The first calls for 75 percent of UW apparel to be produced in unionized factories within three years. The second calls for brands-like adidas, which supplies the university's official apparel-to pay more to factories in return for produced goods.

LLC member Joel Feingold stressed the importance of factory independence. "Brands go to the factories and say 'you will produce this amount of goods for me for this price," Feingold said. "There is an incredible downward pressure on wages."

LLC member Liana Dalton saw workers as victims under the current system. "They're being stomped down every step of the way," Dalton said.

UW-Madison is one of 55 universities nationwide with groups that have met or are planning to meet proposals to eliminate sweat shop labor in the production of university clothing. According to Feingold, university apparel makes up about 2 percent of the American garment industry.

Political Science professor and member of the LLC Dennis Dresang stressed that UW should be a leader in the effort to eliminate sweatshop labor.

"We ought to act now," Dresang said. "This is the right thing to do."

Members of the committee, along with members of the public, took the approved proposal to Chancellor John Wiley's office after the meeting and slid the proposal under his door.

It is now the decision of the chancellor whether or not to sign the proposal and make it university policy. Wiley is expected to sign.

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