Students could be misled by the “Made in the U.S.A.” tag on some GW clothing, said members of the Progressive Student Union at an on-campus public meeting on sweatshop issues Thursday.
Many times clothing items with that label are produced by workers who are paid less than minimum wage and who have few civil rights, according to the PSU.
“About 90 percent of the products `Made in America’ are actually made in sweatshops,” said Lauren Lastrapas, co-president of the PSU.
Products are either completely made in another country and labeled in America, made in sweatshops in New York City or Los Angeles or made in U.S. territories, Lastrapas said.
“Every time we bring this issue to administrations (at various universities), they always say that the students don’t know what they are talking about,” said Erik Brakken, the national organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops. “Even The Wall Street Journal has written two editorials telling us that we didn’t understand economics.”
Brakken showed a film documenting the atrocities of sweatshops, which portrayed 33-cent an hour wages and forced abortions for teenage workers. After the movie, members discussed the impact students could have on the garment industry.
“There is no one that companies in the garment industry are more afraid of than you,” Brakken said. “That is because they don’t know how to deal with students, and they are very vulnerable because we are at the top of their market.”
The PSU aims to get the University to approach the companies that manufacture GW-logo products and ask them to open their factories to independent monitoring, PSU Co-president Dan Calamuci said.
University administrators made a public statement last year that they will wait to hear from the student body before initiating any action, Calamuci said.
PSU members will collect student signatures on a petition and hope to have a resolution in the Student Association before Thanksgiving, Lastrapas said. The PSU has not spoken with GW administrators about investigating factories making GW products, Calamuci said.
“What we have to do first is change the view of GW students about labor issues because most of the students here know nothing about it,” Lastrapas said.
Some of the 20 students in attendance said they think human rights violations committed by the garment industry are a cause for alarm.
“This is an important issue, but it’s also a very large feminist issue,” sophomore Amanda Dietrick said.
More than 90 percent of the people who work in the sweatshops are women, Dietrick said.
“It’s like a moral thing,” sophomore Justin Petrone said. “People go to church, but I don’t. This is how I work to make the world a better place.”