At 12:30 pm on Thursday, April 17, 2008, following a wave of similar actions at Appalachian State University, Penn State University, and the University of Montana, 15 UNC students began a peaceful occupation of Chancellor Moeser’s office, refusing to leave until he adopts the Designated Suppliers Program. It is an indisputable fact that the majority of the clothes on the market today, including UNC logoed apparel, are made in sweatshops. Workers’ basic human rights are violated on a daily basis and UNC has thus far remained complicit. But as students, we have the power to change that. Just as workers are organizing in their factories, we are organizing on campus and demanding an alternative. By adopting the DSP, UNC would join 42 other US colleges and universities in requiring that university licensees source from factories where workers can form unions and negotiate living wages.
My Carolina hoodie, your running shorts, the Final Four T-shirts in Student Stores, everything with the UNC logo on it: all of this apparel is made in sweatshops in which workers are paid poverty wages, denied benefits, forced to work overtime, sexually harassed, verbally abused, intimidated, threatened and sometimes killed for organizing unions that demand that their human rights be respected.
Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium, presented a study conducted by the WRC at an April 1st meeting of UNC’s Labor Licensing Code Advisory Committee. The study, which researched 1,000 factories in 12 countries that produce collegiate apparel, found a full list of violations. The percentages below represent the amount of factories surveyed which are in violation of rights protected under UNC’s labor codes of conduct.
92% – forced overtime
92% -verbal abuse
94% – violated freedom of association
84% -did not explain pay
71% – excessive overtime
59% – did not pay legally mandated overtime
Student Action with Workers (an affiliate of United Students against Sweatshops, which has over 250 chapters across the US and Canada) has been working since 2005 to get Chancellor James Moeser to sign onto a sweatfree policy that would actually enforce our existing labor codes of conduct.
The Designated Suppliers Program (DSP) would enforce our labor codes of conduct by addressing structural issues in the supply chain that create sweatshops in the first place.
But Chancellor Moeser has ignored our sweatfree coalition, the Workers Rights Consortium, and the recommendations of his own Licensing Labor Code Advisory Committee (LLCAC). Despite his promise to attend an LLCAC meeting, he has failed to attend a single one and refused to meet with members of our sweatfree coalition.
UNC is the top seller of licensed apparel in North America—if we sign on, we will win this campaign. This is a historic moment in the anti-sweatshop movement—we have the power to show that another world IS possible, and materially change the lives of garment workers around the world!
This is our last chance to get Chancellor Moeser to sign the DSP before he leaves. What kind of legacy does he want? The Carolina Covenant, hailed as providing accessible education for low-income students, is funded on the backs of sweatshop labor. Adopting the DSP would not cost the University anything, and yet Chancellor Moeser values the corporate profit of licensees like Nike, Adidas, and New Era over the human rights of garment workers.