Student Anti-Sweatshop Movement

March 18, 1999

Citing pressure from the student anti-sweatshop movement, seventeen colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke and Notre Dame, announced on Monday that they would be joining the Fair Labor Association, a group established by the White House that has formed a code of conduct for apparel factories and created a program to monitor violations.

The move is expected to help attract more companies and universities to the association, which is made up of several human rights groups and seven large manufacturers, including Nike, Reebok and Liz Claiborne. It grew out of the White House Apparel Industry Partnership, a group that ended up splintering over how much companies should be made to reveal about their labor practices abroad. These differences led to the withdrawal from the task-force of leading religious and labor organizations, including UNITE (The Union of Needletrades and Industrial textile Employees) and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

The move by the seventeen universities has angered many student activists, who say that the deal was reached behind their backs, and that it does not go far enough to ensure fair labor. Anti-sweatshop protests are spreading like wildfire on campuses throughout the U.S., the latest taking place at the University of Michigan, where students took over the president’s building yesterday armed with enough food and supplies to last a week. Also this week, a delegation of students presented their concerns at a meeting this past Tuesday in Washington, DC with Labor Department officials, as well as representatives of the Apparel Industry Partnership.


  • Andy Cornell, junior at the University of Michigan and one of the protesters currently staging a sit-in at the office of the university’s president.
  • Eric Brakken, senior in sociology at the University of Wisconsin. He was part of a delegation that met with the Labor Department this past Tuesday. Call (608)265-4276.
  • Nora Rosenberg, sophomore majoring in Latin American studies at Brown University and member of the Student Labor Alliance.