Student Store Refuses to Sell Sweatshop Clothing





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In response to student pressure, the Cal Student Store yesterday pulled sweatshirts manufactured in Myanmar from its shelves.

The members of the campus group United Students Against Sweatshops have been campaigning for two years to ensure that the university does not sell clothing made in sweatshops.

"We think the university has done a good job of listening to the students' concerns, although it sometimes required protests to get them to listen," said Jeremy Blasi, a member of the group. "We hope the university remains dedicated to making sure that it is a sweatshop- free campus."

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is notorious for human rights violations and a nondemocratic government.

Blasi said that while the group has made several advances in their negotiations with the university, including the adoption of an anti-sweatshop policy and membership in the Worker's Rights Consortium, there is still a long way to go.

"This confirms that the clothing the university is selling may indeed be made under bad conditions and it is important the university deal with it," he said.

The university contacted

JanSport, who made the sweatshirts, after being notified that the products were manufactured in Myanmar, said Maria Rubinshteyn, UC Berkeley's director of marketing and management of trademarks. JanSport said the controversy resulted from miscommunications with one of the company's subcontractors, "One of their subcontractors moved the production to Myanmar without their approval," she said. "They are taking steps to move it back to the factory where the clothes were originally scheduled to be manufactured."

Upon hearing of the violation of UC code of conduct for trademark licensing, the university pulled the sweatshirts and sent them back to JanSport.

"I have received confirmation that products will not be produced in the region by JanSport and we will be vigilant to ensure that no other companies (whose products we sell) manufacture goods in the area," Rubinshteyn said.

Off-campus anti-sweatshop and human rights organizations lauded the university's actions.

"We think it's great that they're going to respect the wishes of the democratic movement in Burma," said Shannon Wolf, a spokesperson for Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights organization. "This is exactly what we want and if the students at Cal call for the university to not be purchasing from retailers that do business in Burma, they have the responsibility to listen to the students and respond accordingly. That's what they seem to be doing in this case and it's commendable."

Wolf said grassroots human rights campaigns have gained strength in recent years and are now often able to affect corporate policy.

"I think this is part of a larger problem," she said. "We've gotten to a point in this corporate accountability movement when they know they're wrong. Exposing them to the light of public condemnation makes them cave in."

Burma is currently run by a military dictatorship well-known for its human rights abuses.

"Clearly garments make up the majority of imports from Burma," said Jeremy Woodrum, a spokesperson for the Free Burma Coalition. "There is clear evidence that the money made from the imports is used to prop up the military regime."

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