Nicholas Savio: How can we wear the GW logo with pride?

On Nov. 17, three students at Purdue University started a hunger strike demanding that their university adopt the Designated Suppliers Program, a system for protecting the rights of workers who sew University logo apparel. By Nov. 27, that number had risen to 15 students. The hunger strike came after a year and a half of students pressuring their administration to ensure that apparel bearing the GW logo is made in factories that respect basic rights of workers.

Although the Purdue hunger strike has made the news and may be fairly well known to students around the country, some GW students may not know that a similar campaign is happening on our campus. Currently, we do not know whether GW apparel is made with sweatshop labor, and a group of concerned students has revisited a campaign to ensure that GW is sweat free.

The No Sweat Campaign, an initiative of the Progressive Student Union, seeks to get President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg to sign on to the DSP and the Worker Rights Consortium. The consortium has been developed by the United Students Against Sweatshops in consultation with other workers and human rights groups. It serves as a system to verify and inspect conditions in factories producing apparel for colleges and universities. As of right now, more than 160 colleges and universities in North America are members of the WRC.

It goes without saying that sweatshop-made goods would contradict the socially progressive mission of this University. Think about that nice buff and blue hat or that great new GW sweatshirt, and then think about the children that may have worked on that item. These young people are going hungry or being forced to work to bring in supplemental income for their families.

We have been asked for proof that GW apparel is made in sweatshops, however we cannot give that evidence until the University discloses information about the factories that its goods are made in. They should also disclose what types of goods are made and how many, and a thorough analysis must be conducted by a third party, such as the WRC.

Assume momentarily that none of the goods GW currently sells is being made under sweatshop conditions. We still should join the WRC to monitor the production of goods because there is no guarantee that the factories where the goods are being produced will not become sweatshops in the future. Additionally, it is morally just for us to support a cause and an organization that ensures basic workers rights.

This campaign is not new at GW. A few years ago, a group of members of the Progressive Student Union asked President Trachtenberg to sign on to the WRC. Trachtenberg refused. Around that time in spring 2004, the Student Association Senate passed three resolutions in support of efforts to get the University to sign on to the WRC. The SA even offered to allocate funds to pay GW’s WRC membership fee.

When the administration repeatedly ignored the students, and would not respond to the Senate, the campaign went into remission. Now, with a new group of students, this campaign has reemerged on campus.

So what can we do as students? How can we change the University? Speak up. Send President Trachtenberg a letter urging him to sign on to the WRC. Go into the bookstore and tell the manager that you have concerns about where the goods are coming from. Think before you buy. Attend a No Sweat meeting, which occurs every Wednesday night at 10 p.m. in the Marvin Center fourth floor lobby.

While there is no way to know exactly how much GW merchandise is made in sweatshops, there is an urgency to get this problem remedied. This is an opportunity for GW students to help those around the world and even in this country obtain humane working conditions, and to be able to proudly wear GW apparel that wasn’t made at the expense of another’s human rights.

-The writer, a freshman, is a member of the Progressive Student Union.

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