Activist group educates on labor union through teach-in
Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops held a teach-in yesterday at Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus to inform students about the monitoring practices of the Fair Labor Association.
USAS will meet with University administrators at Winants Hall on the Old Queens campus Friday to receive a yes or no answer on whether the University plans to disaffiliate from the Fair Labor Association.
Rutgers USAS is campaigning for the University to disaffiliate from the FLA, which monitors and receives funding from companies like Nike that are known for commissioning sweatshop labor, said Anna Barcy, organizer of Rutgers USAS.
The University’s contract with the FLA relates to the garment industry that makes most Scarlet Knights apparel, she said.
Barcy, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said the sweatshop conditions inhibit workers’ rights and subject them to poverty and minimum wage.
“[By] cutting [our] contract with the FLA, we will be saying we want to eliminate sweatshops from our supply chain because the FLA allows them to exist,” Barcy said.
Solving the sweatshop problem involves working with an alternative organization like the Workers Rights Consortium instead of the FLA because it allows workers to have higher wages and better working conditions, Barcy said.
“[The national chapter of] USAS has been instrumental in setting up another sweatshop watchdog — the Worker’s Rights Consortium, which operates on a global scale, is not fraudulent and [assures] that worker’s rights are upheld,” she said.
Barcy said the Rutgers USAS’s initiative is not necessarily going to fix all of the capitalist abuses of the FLA, but the University could have some influence in this area.
“If we cut ties with the Fair Labor Association, we cause severe detriment to their credibility,” she said.
Barcy said disaffiliating from the FLA gives the University an opportunity to be progressive, because it would involve accomplishing something with student power.
“Student activism is very much alive, and [it’s] very much empowering that a relationship and a dialogue can be sustained between administrators and students, especially when the issue is so pressing,” she said.
Tony Vonoflorio, a Rutgers USAS member, said breaking ties with the FLA would allow the University to destroy the supply chain of sweatshop-made clothing.
“The more people that disaffiliate, then more people [are] going to disaffiliate,” said Vonoflorio, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
Ellen Taraschi, a Rutgers Student Union member, said students should have an active voice on campus and have a say in the way a University functions.
As a Tent State University participant, Taraschi, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said camping outside is a way to show student concerns about the University that could make an impact.
“The University administration is picking money over morals and money over the right thing — which is to make our campus sweatshop-free and potentially cause a huge shift in the global economy,” she said.
Yara Calcaño, a Rutgers USAS organizer, said the University should set this precedent for other universities to follow.
“It’s very important for us. I don’t think anyone would want to know that some child in another country has to do this [work] and make these garments,” said Calcaño, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
Student activists walked to Winants Hall yesterday to deliver a letter addressed to University President Richard L. McCormick asking him to make a decision by Friday about disassociating from the FLA.
Several organizations signed the letter in addition to USAS, including the Rutgers Student Union and the Rutgers University Student Coalition.