The Guardian March 1, 2000


US Uni students force sweatshop agreement

Students of the Pennsylvania University held a sit-in over the issue of 
sweatshops. Over 30 students occupied the outer office of the University 
President for nine days before an agreement was reached on February 15.

The group was demanding the university join the Workers' Rights Consortium 
which has a comprehensive monitoring system of clothing factories 
worldwide.

The University had belonged to the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a 
corporate-controlled monitoring plan that can cover up sweatshop abuses. 
The new agreement stipulates that the university withdraws from the FLA 
immediately.

Penn Uni, like many other education institutions, sells thousands of 
dollars worth of clothing with its logo on it. Much of this clothing is 
manufactured in sweatshops where workers, mostly women, are abused, paid 
less than subsistence wages, and work in unsafe conditions.

Last summer some Penn students visited El Salvador, saw a sweatshop and 
interviewed some of the workers on video. The owner confiscated the video 
and fired the women who had been interviewed. Constant pressure and 
publicity about this event convinced the factory owner to rehire the women.

"We have been raising the awareness of Penn students about sweatshops and 
making connections to the clothes we wear and the clothes that Penn sells 
in its campus shop", said one of the leaders of the sit-in.

Rallies have been held on campus to educate students and faculty, and a 
candlelight vigil was held. Factual literature was given to the Uni 
President. A one-day fast was held on February 14 in support of the United 
Students against Sweatshops. Students want the university to follow the 
code established by the Workers' Rights Consortium.

The City Council unanimously supported a resolution against sweatshops, but 
when a councillor attempted to present the resolution to the President of 
Penn University, she was conveniently out.

The Penn anti-sweatshop group received support from students at other 
universities.

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People's Weekly World

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