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USC SCALE Tells President Nikias: 'Sweatshops Keep Us Up At Night'

Julia Wang |
October 22, 2012 | 10:20 a.m. PDT

Guest Contributor

(Julia Mangione)
(Julia Mangione)
A group of students from the University of Southern California's (USC) Student Coalition Against Exploitation (SCALE) showed up at President Nikias' office Friday afternoon inviting him to a meeting with them to discuss how USC's Trojan Apparel is made - according to SCALE, Trojan gear is made in sweatshops all around the world.

SCALE has requested a meeting with Nikias multiple times throughout the semester, without success.

President Nikias gave a lecture on Thursday about leadership, during which he urged student groups to stand up for their beliefs and principles. He said that “the only thing that keeps me up at night” are students groups who ask the university to take a stance on politicized issues, because he wants to maintain the plurality of the university.

So, on Friday, students arrived at his office in pajamas, holding up dream bubble posters with messages displaying prominent concerns associated with sweatshop labor, like "Forced Pregnancy Tests," "Sexual Harassment" and "Death Threats." The message? “Sweatshops Keep SCALE Up At Night.” 

The students hope to discuss with the President how affiliating with the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), an independent factory monitor, can lead to more careful, detailed and accurate reports on factory conditions. One hundred eighty-one other universities have signed onto the WRC, taking a big step toward ensuring that their university's clothes are not made in sweatshops. Yet, USC has yet to do so. Monitors that are funded by the clothing corporations themselves, like the ones that USC currently uses, have a poor record of overlooking even major violations of local and international safety regulations.

One SCALE student mentioned "factory fires" during the visit to Nikias' office, alluding to a fire at a Pakistani textile factory last month that killed nearly 300 workers. Workers died trapped in the building behind locked exit doors. The monitoring group in charge of the inspection of the building, Social Accountability International, had given the factory SA8000 certification, an assurance they claim means that a business has met basic safety standards.

Sammuel Farias, a USC junior, stated,

“We want to send a clear message to President Nikias that we’re not asking USC to take a stance on this issue of sweatshops - they’ve already taken a stance against them. USC has clauses in its Code of Conduct that guarantee rights to all of its workers, including garment workers around the world. We want them to uphold their promise to the Trojan Family that workers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. President Nikias, you said that some student groups keep you up at night. Well, we’re telling you that sweatshops keep us up at night."


Find SCALE on Facebook here; follow SCALE on Twitter here.



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