USAS panel shares experiences with sweatshops in NJ, globally
Students were offered the opportunity to learn that sweatshops are on the rise because of globalization through “Sweatshops in the Global Economy” last night at Trayes Hall in the Douglass Campus Center.
Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops organized the event, with the goal of educating students on upholding workers’ welfare, said Anna Barcy, a member of RUSAS.
“We’re hoping that by the end of the night [students] have a better understanding of the issue,” said Barcy, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.
The event featured a panel discussion, with RUSAS President Richard Garzon, Geisa Rocha, a part-time lecturer in Latin American studies, and Carmen Martino, a professor at the School of Management and Labor Relations.
Martino, the co-founder of New Labor, an organization that tries to improve working conditions in Latin America, said many temporary agencies took advantage of their workers.
“It’s a situation where people are paid less than minimum wage, where people are not paid overtime, but they work more than 40 hours, a place where people get hurt, and no one wants to take responsibility for the person who has been injured,” Martino said. “It’s a very hazardous industry.”
Martino said workers, who usually do not have driver’s licenses, get rides to work from the agency that employs them, he said.
“They make you pay for the ride,” Martino said.
Mauricio Castillo and Carmen Hernandez, two workers and members of New Labor, shared stories of working in poor labor circumstances during the discussion, with Bryan Nelson, an organizer for New Labor, translating their accounts.
Hernandez said she and her husband did not receive enough money for the work they put in, which she said was necessary while raising their two sons. Her husband was awarded about $1,600 in back payments after bringing up the issue with New Labor, she said.
Castillo said he also experienced similar working conditions and missed payments.
“We’ve come here to work, we just want to be treated fairly,” he said.
But aside from labor issues in New Jersey, companies that the University has relationships with were also discussed.
Garzon said Russell Athletic, an apparel company that once had a contract with the University, has lost a considerable amount of money since the national USAS protested its labor conditions.
Barcy hoped the event would put pressure on the University to sever ties with other big apparel companies that have their workers in bad conditions.
The Workers Rights Consortium, which the University is also contracted with, helps make ensure workers have their rights and work in good conditions, she said.
RUSAS wants the University to disassociate from the Fair Labor Association, because the association does not provide employees with good conditions to work, Barcy said.
RUSAS invited President Richard L. McCormick to come to the panel and learn about the issues, she said, but he was unable to attend.
Students like Natalia Baranowski, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said big companies using sweatshops are engaging in unpleasant actions.
“They’re awful, there are set up people for people who don’t necessarily have it easy,” she said.
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior Michael Elias said the event was great because it brought awareness to the issue.
“It brings awareness to sweatshops and how they affect those involved in them,” Elias said. “Such an event also helps to rebuke misconceptions people might have on the issues.”