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(en) Students Occupy U. Penn President's Office InAnti-Sweatshop Sit-In

From DAMN <damn@tao.ca>
Date Wed, 9 Feb 2000 10:39:36 -0500


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>United Student Against Sweatshops usas@listbot.com http://www.umich.edu/~sole/usas

Thirteen University of Pennsylvania undergraduate students occupied the
office of University President Judith Rodin, in College Hall, at noon today.
Penn Students Against Sweatshops (PSAS) is demanding that the university
take steps to end its association with sweatshop labor.  They have called on
President Rodin to end ties with the Fair Labor Association (FLA), an
industry controlled institution that students say will cover up sweatshop
abuses and join the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a verification
institution based on worker input.

"The so-called Fair Labor Association is only a public relations operation
designed to improve the image of its members like Kathie Lee Gifford and
Nike," said Anna Roberts, a freshman German major." "Not only are students
wearing Penn clothing made in sweatshops, but President Rodin has publicly
linked the University to an institution mired in secrecy designed to
perpetuate sweatshop abuses not eliminate them," said Miriam Joffe-Block, a
senior anthropology major and coordinator of PSAS.

The students are demanding that the university join the newly-created Worker
Rights Consortium (WRC), an association which has already recruited Brown
University, Haverford College, Loyola University of New Orleans, and Bard
College and secured endorsements from major national student, religious,
labor and human rights organizations. Created by students in consultation
with scholars, policy experts, labor unions, and workers in developing
countries, the WRC places the needs of sweatshop workers at the center of
its operation.  

The Worker Rights Consortium is designed to force more information about
sweatshop abuses out into the public sphere and use the university's
leverage to pressure companies to clean up their act. It employs local human
rights groups-organizations that have the trust of sweatshop workers-to
verify complaints of labor abuses.

The sit-in comes after months of work on the part of PSAS in an attempt to
convince President Rodin to take a stronger stance against sweatshops.
Students have held a vigil, a rally, and teach-ins and have met continuously
with University administrators in an effort to persuade Penn to change its
policy.  And in a strong demonstration of community support, the
Philadelphia City Council passed a unanimous resolution condemning the weak
Fair Labor Association and throwing its weight behind the student-backed
Worker Rights Consortium.



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