After repeated systemwide protests made by groups like the UCSB Student Labor Action Project, the University of California agreed earlier this month to comply with a policy helping bar the use of sweatshop labor in the production of UC logo apparel.
The Designated Suppliers Program, supported by several universities nationwide, requires licensees supplying UC apparel to buy at least 25 percent of their product from preapproved factories that allow their workers to form unions as well as provide them with living wages. According to SLAP member Alyssa Go, about 100 factories are currently approved to produce apparel.
In a statement made May 5, UC President Robert C. Dynes wrote, “the implementation of DSP does not address production of University uniforms,” an issue that will be the “subject of a separate review.”
The UC will review the program after a year and analyze its effectiveness, as well as decide whether it will continue with the program or extend it.
The implementation of the program could lead to rises in the price of University logo apparel because, according to the statement, the UC “will require licensees to pay DSP factories prices sufficient to make it possible for the standards” listed above to be met. However, members of activist groups supporting the cause have said the increased prices would be negligible.
The Workers Rights Consortium, a nonprofit organization that works to enforce the “basic rights of workers,” will monitor and approve factories around the world in which the logo apparel is made, through compiled worker complaints and the help of nongovernmental organizations in the area. Members of the United Students Against Sweatshop, the organization spearheading the DSP, founded the consortium.
The UC’s decision to back the DSP comes after months of “naked” protests at various UC campuses. Last month, several students at UC Berkeley and UC Riverside were arrested for staging sit-ins at their respective campus administrative buildings. Protests at UCSB did not lead to arrests.
UCSB sociology professor Richard Appelbaum said the DSP will provide factory workers with more rights and privileges.
“The point of DSP was to require universities to require licensees to move production into small number of factories in which workers can form unions if they wanted, in which they can make a living wage,” Appelbaum said. “Workers have the right to form unions if they want because it was felt that by only organizing themselves could they protect their own rights.”
Go, a fourth-year environmental studies major, said the goal for the program is the eventual consolidation of logo apparel production into a smaller number of factories. If the program succeeds, campuses will have more control over who works at the factories and how much they get paid.
“Instead of 1,000 different sweatshirts made in 100 different factories, we hope to make it 1,000 sweatshirts in 50 factories,” Go said.
She said the UC campuses currently outsource their clothing to companies such as Nike, Adidas and Russell. She alleged that these companies outsource their labels to factories in foreign countries that treat workers unfairly.
“The large companies are really eating up a lot of the money,” Go said. “In terms of cost, a $40 college sweatshirt only [gives a worker] 25 cents.”
Appelbaum said Chancellor Henry T. Yang had a large involvement in getting the DSP passed. He said he hopes that the program will be successful in the future.
“It’s experimental,” Yang said. “Our first goal is to have 25 percent of University-sold products to be made in designated factories to see how it’s working and then to make adjustments. If they are not working, we’ll then try fixing the problems.”
Go said the UC will gradually increase its use of pre-approved factories. She said the DSP is a step in the right direction.
“As a whole, it’s good to see the University so progressive,” Go said. “It shows the rest of society how to start to control globalization. DSP passed because kids like us were bothering faculty.”