from The Daily Cardinal September 29, 2005

Students demand unions for UW apparel workers

By Jackie Luskey

UW-Madison sophomore John Bruning speaks out against sweat shops at a rally outside Bascom Hall Wednesday afternoon.
Media Credit: Christopher Guess/The Daily Cardinal
UW-Madison sophomore John Bruning speaks out against sweat shops at a rally outside Bascom Hall Wednesday afternoon.

The Student Labor Action Coalition stormed Chancellor John Wiley's office Wednesday after rallying on Bascom Hill to demand union-produced collegiate apparel.

Overlooking the Lincoln statue on the Bascom Hall steps, SLAC speakers pressed the need to disassociate UW-Madison from the child labor, starvation wages, violence and sexual abuse found in sweatshops.

"In Bascom Hall they're saying it's raining right now, but later on they are going to find that there is a much larger rain to pour. Much harder," said UW-Madison junior and SLAC member Joel Feingold.

Feingold said the rally was part of a national campaign, which includes Yale University and Cornell College, to pressure universities to demand unions for workers who make university apparel.

"We can only create space for the people who can't make change in this system ... the workers themselves," Feingold said. "The only people qualified to call a factory sweat-free are the factories' workers empowered by a democratic and representative union."

Outside Wiley's vacant office, SLAC members chanted "Ain't no power like the power of the people because the power of the people won't stop," to faculty and administration who passed.

SLAC members and other union supporters at the movement said they feel confident that Wiley, though not present during their rally, will either accept the demands or be forced to as their campaign escalates.

"The administration has the social responsibility clause. It has a code of conduct saying that it should pay its workers a living wage. So, theoretically, this is not a very controversial issue," UW-Madison senior and SLAC member Ruth Castel-Branco said.

SLAC members also focused on the workers' right to self-regulate.

"I think that one of the most important things to do is to empower people, and not just to hand them things, but to allow them the ability to work for their own social change within their own spheres. This gives them the power to organize gains and I think this is really important so that they can work for their own liberation," said UW-Madison freshman and SLAC member Matthew Johnson.

UW-Madison sophomore and SLAC member John Bruning said, "I don't think that our university should be making money off the exploitation of other people. It is our hope that UW students and alumni can wear UW shirts without wondering if their stained red is coming from the workers who made them."

SLAC's UW Anti-Sweatshop campaign

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