Approximately 30 students and faculty members marched on the Chancellor’s office yesterday at noon as part of a nationwide effort to protest the alleged use of sweatshop labor in manufacturing apparel with university logos – items that are sold at such locations as the UCen Bookstore.
Demonstrators from the UCSB chapter of Student Labor Action Project (S.L.A.P.) walked from Storke Plaza to the Arbor, ultimately arriving at Cheadle Hall, demanding that Chancellor Henry Yang publicly advocate the goals of the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). Yang was not in his office at the time of the rally, leaving the protesters to reschedule a meeting with him in the near future.
Students chanted such slogans as “What’s outrageous? Sweatshop wages!” “UC sweatshop-free” and “Hey hey, ho ho, sweatshop labor has got to go.” Some of the student protesters wore UCSB apparel, including third-year political science major Elia Boggia, who wielded a bullhorn during the march.
“He was wearing it purposefully to give people a visual of the types of UCSB apparel that we’re talking about,” said Bill Shiebler, UCSB campus organizing director and third-year sociology major.
According to its letter addressed to the Chancellor, S.L.A.P. wants Yang to make a public statement within the next two weeks supporting the USAS campaign to build a factory that exclusively produces University apparel and pays its employees a living wage and respects their right to unionize. S.L.A.P. asked the Chancellor to publicly give his support before the Oct. 28 meeting of the Standing Committee for the UC Code of Conduct for Trademark Licenses.
The committee overlooks and makes revisions to the UC Code of Conduct, which currently includes a section detailing how factory workers who make University apparel should be treated. At its meeting on Oct. 28, the committee will decide whether to recommend the USAS plan to the UC Office of the President, Shiebler said.
Contrary to the protesters’ claims, UCSB Bookstore Assistant Director Pam Longmire said, clothing sold at the bookstore does not come from sweatshops. The bookstore purchases the majority of its clothing from three vendors: Russell, Jansport and Gear.
“The UCSB Bookstore’s major apparel vendors are all compliant with the UC Code of Conduct,” Longmire said. “We’re all asked to support the rules. … For a company to do business with us they need to abide by the terms and conditions of the Code of Conduct established by the University that no foreign-made equipment or supplies shall be made by forced, convict or indentured labor.”
Chancellor Yang said UCSB works hard to ensure the clothes brought to campus either for employees or to be sold in the bookstore do not come from sweatshops.
“Our university officials, over the past year, have met with various groups, including UC employees, labor unions, student groups and community organizations, regarding UC’s procurement of employee uniforms,” Yang wrote in a letter. “We will continue to investigate allegations of policy violations in order to ensure that all vendors with which our university does business are meeting our policies regarding workplace standards, and we will also continue to regularly monitor our policies in this area and refine them as circumstances warrant.”
However, UCSB student organizer Ashley Rouintree, a fifth-year global studies major, said it is nearly impossible to ensure that all the factories producing University clothing comply with the UC Code of Conduct.
“We want the UC schools, especially UCSB, to endorse this campaign,” Rouintree said. “When that happens, we can regulate the treatment of workers in factories.”