If you’ve been anywhere near the bookstore, you’ve likely seen the entrance blanketed racks of clothes and mannequins modeling wares. Sweats, hats and even clothes for toddlers all emblazoned with the Wolverine or UVU logo are available for purchase to show school spirit. It may not have occurred to those who browse this section that some of the clothing sold in the bookstore was likely shipped in from a sweatshop.
The majority of our apparel, just like most other colleges, are made by big producers like Adidas, Champion, MV Sports, and Under Armour.
These companies maintain factories in Mexico and South America or in countries overseas like China, Pakistan, and Vietnam, where working conditions are poor and unionization is difficult, if it exists at all. Most of the workers have no guarantee that they will receive livable wages for their work and some must work under dangerous conditions.
These things have been of increasing concern among college students across the country and there are anti-sweatshop campaigns on many campuses, even in Utah from time to time.
It’s time for UVU to be the first in Utah to take on these problems with collegiate apparel.
Here’s how to start.
In the past few years, college students have formed a network, the United Students Against Sweatshops, to promote worker’s rights. They’ve gained much support for the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP), a project that ensures the enforcement of university codes of conduct mandating proper wages in factories that produce collegiate apparel. Under this program, universities make it a point to include in their contracts and licenses with clothing companies that if their current costs aren’t enough for the factory to pay out decent wages, the brands address their price tags.
Universities and colleges coast to coast, from Washington State to Colorado to Michigan to Florida (not to mention the entire university system in California), are all engaged in anti-sweatshop activism and officially support the DSP.
Unfortunately, Utah is not represented anywhere on that list.
As an institution that prides itself on equal opportunity education and success – not to mention an eye for the environment – we should be an example as well in the realm of social justice and human rights.
The Peace and Justice Studies program is a fantastic first academic step, and we would be remiss to neglect an opportunity to be a leading example by supporting the DSP and institutionalizing fair-trade apparel in our bookstore. It shows that we engage the community both on a local level and on a global level. It’s time for us to take the lead.