March 2, 2015

Is UGA Apparel Made in Sweatshops?


Six University of Georgia students broke out in song and dance around noon Friday in Tate Plaza to bring attention to their campaign asking President Jere Morehead to affiliate UGA with the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights monitoring organization.

The students of The Coalition of Bulldogs for Fair Labor, which consists of 42 student and community organizations, want UGA to affiliate with WRC to provide more transparency as to where Bulldog apparel sold in the UGA Bookstore is made and to ensure it’s not in sweatshops.

The coalition has been trying to get President Morehead’s attention with little to no response for over a year now. Melissa Woodbridge, who headed up the flash mob event and is co-president of the group Amnesty at UGA, said they’ve only received one letter from President Morehead directly. She said the letter doesn’t even mention a response to their request for a meeting.

Woodbridge said UGA is the only school in the SEC Eastern Division not affiliated with WRC. The total number of universities associated with WRC is 180.

The students walked in a circle in Tate Plaza, holding signs that read “Make Our Tees Sweatshop Free,” and sang, “I see those other schools, joined on for workers’ rights. Our school can do the same. Come on let’s join the fight!”



Photo Credit: Laura James

A flash mob at Tate Plaza on Friday.

After their flash mob, the students walked to the Administration Building to deliver a letter to Morehead’s assistant. Walking into the building, they sang the chorus, “Don’t you know it’s time to affiliate, affiliate, affiliate for justice. Time to affiliate, affiliate, affiliate for workers. Time to affiliate, affiliate, affiliate with the WRC.”

Woodbridge said when they were approached about this campaign over a year ago, she hadn’t really thought about where her clothes came from.

“It’s easy to forget that hands sewed these clothes, and that some of those people might have died making these clothes because factories collapse, or they might have been harassed physically or sexually,” Woodbridge said. “I don’t want to be a first-world consumer aggravating this and making that profitable.”  

While UGA has yet to affiliate with WRC, Woodbridge said the UGA Bookstore has increased its products made by Alta Gracia, a Dominican Republic factory that produces collegiate clothing and provides safe working conditions for its workers.

Kameel Mir, 22, a member of the Women’s Studies Student Organization, which is a part of The Coalition of Bulldogs for Fair Labor, said she has a personal reason for fighting for this issue because she is from Bangladesh, where the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in 2013, killing or injuring thousands of workers.

“It just doesn’t really make sense that a university that has the ideals that this university has and the academic resources and talent and manpower to do something for good shouldn’t be affiliated with the WRC.”