Members of the ASU chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops wearing bright red plastic fireman helmets with USAS written on the side, delivered a letter to President Michael Crow’s office Friday morning asking the University to sign the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
The accord is a five-year legally binding agreement between international labor organizations and retailers to maintain safety standards in the Bangladesh garment industry.
Many companies such as Zephyr Graf X, Russell Brands LLC and Top of the World operate factories in Bangladesh with alleged poor working conditions to make apparel for colleges around the country, including ASU, according the Worker’s Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights monitoring organization.
Low costs and high production rates create these situations, but USAS is a national organization looking to put an end to collegiate brands contracting factories that exploit their workers and create hazardous work environments resulting in 600 deaths since 2006.
USAS is working diligently in hope that ASU will sign the accord.
Transborder studies senior Jonathan Londono, president of ASU’s chapter of USAS, said he hopes the University will take a closer look at the brands it uses.
“We want to get ASU to change its policy and to switch to brands that signed the accord,” he said. “We also want the University to cut ties with those that don’t.”
Economics freshman Greg Goulder, who supports USAS, said some students are not comfortable with buying apparel that comes from sweatshops.
“If I’m buying items from brands that profit from unsafe working conditions, then I’m not OK with that,” Goulder said.
Psychology and sociology senior Sam Montes, along with other USAS supporters, said the students are the voice of the University and it should be heard when it comes to issues like these.
“A lot of people misunderstand who represents the University,” Montes said. “It’s not the people in the suits, but us as students, and we have a right to make our voices heard.”
Wearing the ASU logo is a point of pride for many students but wearing apparel coming from sweatshops in unacceptable, Londono said.
“We want to feel honor as students when we wear brands that have our logo on them,” he said.
USAS members met with Senior Vice President of Affairs James O’Brien to discuss the issues surrounding the apparel the University uses.
“We’ve tried to do work at a University level to point out sweatshop issues,” O’Brien said. “The objective here is one that should be part of the University objectives as well.”
O’Brien will be meeting with University Chief Financial Officer Morgan Olsen as well as Crow to discuss the issues and will be giving USAS a written response.
While the goal was to speak with Crow, the overall reaction to the letter delivery was one of hope.
“The meeting went really well,” Londono said. “It was really good to meet with the vice president and he seemed receptive, which can only be seen as a good thing.”
USAS members main goal is to stop the oppression caused by sweatshops and are taking small steps to to make it happen.
“If ASU can be part of the healing of that oppression it can make a difference,” Londono said. “That’s why we do what we do.”
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