USAS is committed to organizing in solidarity with garment workers to fight sweatshop conditions such as poverty wages, forced overtime, sexual harassment, union busting, and health and safety violations in the global apparel industry
From the beginning, USAS has identified the reckless business practices of apparel brands as the root cause of sweatshops. We also know that the only way to beat the brands and end sweatshop conditions is to help build a global labor movement that could take on the real bosses of the apparel industry on a transnational scale.
Using our unique leverage as students attending universities with multimillion-dollar apparel programs, USAS has run campaigns on campuses across the country to force apparel brands to respect workers rights. First, we demanded that our universities tell brands to disclose the locations of the factories producing collegiate apparel; then we pushed universities to adopt labor codes of conduct that set minimum standards for collegiate apparel production; then we compelled our schools to affiliate with the Worker Rights Consortium, the only independent apparel monitoring organization; and most recently we have campaigned for our universities to adopt a comprehensive sweat-free solution, called the Designated Suppliers Program.
Using all of these tools, USAS has waged strategic struggles alongside garment worker unions in the global South to demand that brands respect workers’ rights to living wages and safe working conditions, as well as the right to form democratic unions. Through international solidarity, USAS and workers have been able to achieve some of the anti-sweatshop movement’s landmark victories.
In fall of 2013, United Students Against Sweatshops launched the “End Deathtraps” campaign in response to the massive worker safety crisis in the Bangladesh garment industry – a crisis that has killed at least 1,500 garment workers since 2012. The goal of this campaign is to force college-logo apparel brands to sign the Bangladesh Safety Accord, a binding contract between apparel companies and global and Bangladeshi unions, signed by over 150 brands and retailers worldwide, that would require brands to take responsibility for safety in their subcontracted factories in a meaningful way to transform the garment industry from deathtraps to safe workplaces.
In particular, USAS is campaigning to hold VF Corporation, owner of Jansport, North Face, Vans, and Timberland, accountable for worker safety in Bangladesh. Despite its sizeable presence in Bangladesh and evidence of mishandling of safety hazards in its factories, VF Corporation has refused to sign the Bangladesh Safety Accord. Twenty-nine workers have already died in a VF supplier factory fire caused by faulty wiring and structural dysfunctions, but rather than signing the Accord, VF has joined forces with Walmart and the Gap to create a company-controlled, non-binding agreement called the “Alliance for Worker Safety.” Worker representatives and labor rights advocates have critiqued this program for its exclusion of workers and their representatives and its failure to obligate brands to pay a single cent toward the repair and renovation of unsafe factories.
For more information about our campaign, visit www.northfacedeathtraps.com.
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