Student Labor Action Coalition

Madison, WI

Press Release for Demand Day September 28, 2005


Collegiate Apparel Brands Will be Required to Source Goods from Union Factories; Living Wages Will be Negotiated

On Wednesday, September 28, students at 42 major American universities will announce a new national movement to end sweatshop production of collegiate apparel. On the University of Wisconsin campus, the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) will present these demands to the press and to the UW administration at 12:45 PM, September 28, at the top of Bascom Hill. The new campaign marks the culmination of SLAC's seven-year struggle for justice in the global garment industry.

As before, SLAC's members hope to leverage their university's market power to support movements for workplace democracy both in the U.S. and abroad. But their new campaign takes this model a step further. The demands are as follows: First, by requiring its licensees to source a certain percentage of their goods from union factories, UW will create market demand and breathing space for legitimate, democratic, and representative unions in the developing world and the global North. Second, the University will require licensed brands to pay their supplier factories more per item, allowing workers to realistically demand living wages of their managers. The race-to-the-bottom, at least in collegiate apparel, is reversed. SLAC hopes that the new policy will consolidate gains made by workers and unions all over the world, particularly in developing nations.

SLAC member Gabriela Varela said of the new campaign, "By requiring Nike, Adidas, and Champion to buy their goods from union factories, the new national movement will address the cruelty of the global garment industry the best and only way we know how: by allowing empowered workers to exercise control over their own workplaces."

John Bruning of SLAC added, "International labor monitors have found that sweatshop production of collegiate apparel is rampant -- it happens in El Salvador, Mexico, Lesotho, Indonesia, Haiti, Thailand, the United States, and elsewhere. And they've also found that well-meaning university policies aren't enough, that even independent monitoring can't prevent the child labor, starvation wages, violence, and sexual abuse that are endemic in the industry. Independent labor monitoring organizations believe, as we believe, that only freedom of association and worker-empowerment by way of unions can end these practices."

Another SLAC member, Liana Dalton, said, "Where workers have made strides toward representation and collective bargaining -- like the Kukdong factory in Mexico, and the Just Garments facility in El Salvador -- we've seen tremendous improvement. But the race to the bottom dynamic -- a constant search for lower wages, more oppressive conditions, and less worker oversight-threatens the survival of such factories and severely limits the gains that workers can achieve. But by requiring corporations to source their goods from union factories, the impetus for factory owners to bust unions all but disappears. And by requiring the multinational corporations to pay local factories more for each item they buy, workers will finally be able to negotiate with factory owners for a living wage."

SLAC member Ashok Kumar concluded, "The new campaign -- with its emphasis on workers, unions, and solidarity across borders -- represents a major step forward: in the age of globalized markets, we are seeing the birth of a globalized labor movement."

PRESS CONFERENCE Wednesday, September 28, 2005 12:45 PM Top of Bascom Hill

The Forty-Two Schools Participating in the Union Apparel Campaign

1.  Smith
2.  Purdue
3.  UW-Madison
4.  Georgetown
5.  UC Riverside
6.  Macalester
7.  Indiana University
8.  Grand Valley State
9.  University of Pittsburgh
10. Skidmore
11. UI-Urbana Champaign
12. Michigan State
13. University of Michigan
14. UC-Irvine
15. University of Colorado
16. Loyola Chicago
17. Columbia
18. UNC-Chapel Hill
19. MIT
20. Duke
21. Santa Clara U
22. UC San Diego
23. University S. Mississippi
24. UC Santa Cruz
25. UC Davis
26. University of Maine
27. U-Mass Amherst
28. UC- Berkeley
29. UConn
30. Cornell
31. Brandeis
32. Kansas State University
33. SUNY Stonybrook
34. Boston College
35. St. Louis U
36. Yale
37. Bowdoin
38. Temple
39. University of Rhode Island
40. Brown
41. USC
42. UC Santa Barbara

Endorsing Organizations

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Communication Workers of America (CWA)
United Steelworkers (USW)
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)
Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)
Campaign for Labor Rights
International Labor Rights Fund
South Central Federation of Labor (Wisconsin)
UW-Madison Teaching Assistants' Association
Wisconsin State Employee Action Coalition
Alliance for Global Justice
American Rights at Work
Campus Progress
Citizens Trade Campaign
Educating for Justice
Global Exchange 
League of Young Voters 
National Youth Advocacy Coalition 
Nicaragua Network
Not with Our Money
Polaris Project
Pride at Work 
Project South
Student Farmworker Alliance
Student Action with Farmworkers
Sweatfree Communities
United States Student Association
Walmart Watch

Pictures from Demand Day, September 28, 2005

SLAC's UW Anti-Sweatshop campaign

SLAC main page