Sweatshop stopping

Kevin R. Clark

In 150 countries around the world, over two million people, many of them women and children, work in garment sweatshops producing for American retailers. About 80 percent of apparel workers producing clothing for American retailers are working under conditions that systematically violate local and international labor law.

These workers are paid pennies a day and are forced to work unreasonable hours without overtime pay. Companies today will often spend over 30 times more marketing a shoe than they pay the human who crafts it. “What a shame,” we say as we prance around in our designer clothes and comfortable university apparel. “If only there was something I could do.” Our university mission statement claims that we emphasize Christian Humanistic Tradition and should embody the Augustinian ideals of mutual love and respect toward all, but little is being done at Villanova to combat labor abuse or even raise awareness.

Organizations like aWorldConnected.org, Oxfam and the National Labor Committee all publish data, hold conferences and present opportunities to battle rising world poverty, but now there is direct action we can take as students here on campus.

The Progressive Student Network, a group of students within the Peace and Justice Department, has recently released a “sweat-free catalogue” where students and organizations on campus can purchase clothing and apparel that is guaranteed to not have been produced with sweatshop labor. The PSN increases awareness about labor rights and exploitation, sweatshops and fair trade. They have been involved in bringing fair trade coffee to campus and currently are part of a larger consortium that raises awareness about local companies failing to obey labor standards.

While the sweat-free catalogue was released this semester, only a few organizations on campus have actually utilized it. PSN hopes that next semester more groups on campus will take advantage of the wide selection of clothing and the discounts offered by the catalogue’s distributors.

The distributors are both American and overseas companies, but all guarantee fair labor practices in production and some even offer clothing crafted from organic material. There really is no reason why organizations such as fraternities and sororities, clubs and even the University Shop shouldn’t take advantage of this worthy opportunity.

The sizing, billing, available products and aesthetics of the catalogue are no different than the catalogues used to order the apparel these groups receive now. Campus organizations that claim to be aligned with Villanova’s humanitarian stance should commit to labor rights by making sweat-free purchases, especially now since it’s easier than ever.

PSN’s goal is to get as many individuals and organizations involved with this ethical catalogue as possible. They hope that Villanovans can make a conscious effort to support fair trade practices, improved working conditions and the treatment of laborers all over the world.

For information regarding the PSN or the sweat-free catalogue, e-mail or check out The Center for Peace and Justice Education in Sullivan Hall.