Young men and women all over North America are becoming increasingly aware of the unscrupulous and too often deadly textile labour practices in Third World countries.
And on Friday, Thompson Rivers University students were eager to sign on to a new student union campaign aimed at ending sweatshops, which may well provide clothing sold at the university, said organizer Leif Douglass.
“It’s the norm that apparel is sourced from sweatshops. We haven’t been able to find any evidence that (on campus apparel) is not sourcing from sweatshops currently, so yes, they are from sweatshops,” said Douglass, TRUSU’s vice president external.
The manager for TRU’s bookstore, which offers hats and clothing, did not immediately return requests for comment.
TRUSU is collecting student signatures in support of a push to get the university to join the Workers’ Rights Consortium and its Sweatshop Free Campuses campaign.
The consortium is an independent labour rights monitoring organization conducting investigations of working conditions in factories around the globe to combat sweatshops and protect the rights of workers who make apparel and other products.
TRUSU intends to present the student support at the TRU board of governors meeting in December.
“As students and as a university we have a huge amount of buying power so it’s a thing that we have an opportunity to make a difference in and it’s an opportunity for TRU to be a leader as far as respecting the rights of workers all over the world,” said Douglass.
It’s a good time to launch the campaign, he said, since there’s been a recent increase in momentum, awareness and a desire to make a difference.
“There’s been a lot of coverage, for example, this spring following the factory collapse in Bangladesh. That’s an example that students use as a reference point,” said Douglass.
About 200 mainly American universities have joined the Workers’ Rights Consortium since 2000 when it was formed. Local students want TRU to become the first university in Western Canada to join.