Anti-sweatshop activist Scott Nova, executive director of an independent labor rights monitoring organization called Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), came to the MultiCultural Center Theater this afternoon to discuss human rights violations in the clothing manufacturing industry.
Presented by the Global and International Studies Department, Nova’s talk was entitled “Fast Fashion, Short Lives: Why Workers Sewing Clothes for the World’s Leading Apparel Brands Continue to Die.” Before the talk, members from UCSB’s own national student labor organization, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), set up tables at the front of the theater and handed out flyers detailing issues of corporate power, human rights abuses, consumer ignorance, lack of accountability and economic inequality.
According to Nova, companies go out of their way to conceal unfair labor practices as part of a face-saving strategy.
“If that image is damaged, it is tremendously costly, and they understand that labor rights abuses — if they’re exposed — can cause that damage,” Nova said.
During his presentation, Nova targeted H&M, Zara, Target, GAP, Walmart and many other global corporations for their abuse of workers, primarily in factories located in Bangladesh. Nova said workers are constantly harassed into unfairly working additional hours and are subject to intimidation strategies such as being locked up in a single room of the factory.
Additionally, he said a number of other violations of workers’ rights exist, including prohibited unionization, presence of fire hazards and building instability. The most recent example of such abuse is the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh on April 24, leaving at least 1,129 workers dead.
According to Nova, manufacturers of university apparel are another major part of the unethical clothing industry complex that the WRC continues to fight against. In light of this issue, Nova said he calls for student support on ethically produced items.
For more information or to get involved, students can attend USAS meetings that take place every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. at the Social Sciences and Media Building, Room 2011.
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.