TRUSU campaign against sweatshop clothing prompts quick response

Karla Karcioglu, Roving Editor Ω

At the Back-to-School BBQ hosted by TRUSU on Sept. 6, the union launched a new campus campaign called “Sweatshop Free Campus.”

Clothing made in countries with poor workers' rights records is under scrutiny by TRUSU. Sean Brady/The Omega

Clothing made in countries with poor workers’ rights records is under scrutiny by TRUSU. Sean Brady/The Omega

The campaign focuses on recent issues with overseas garment factories, brought to light by recent tragedies such as the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, according to TRUSU president Dylan Robinson.

After investigating the various clothing products available to students on campus, TRUSU found that many of the products come from companies that may contract with factories that have poor human rights and labour records, Robinson said.

The goal of the campaign is to get TRU to agree to sign on with an organization called Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), which monitors factory conditions and workers’ rights.

At the barbecue, TRUSU called on students to add their names in support of the TRU Board of Governors joining the WRC.

Late Friday afternoon, The Omega spoke with TRU’s bookstore manager Glenn Read to discuss TRUSU’s latest campaign. The bookstore that carries merchandise from companies TRUSU named in their campaign flyer.

Read had no knowledge of the campaign and called it an attack.

He said he felt TRUSU didn’t need to go this route, and that if they had approached the bookstore first, they would have been willing to discuss it.

“I don’t think anyone really wants to work with sweatshops,” Read said. “Sometimes you just don’t know.

“Sometimes it goes through many different companies before it reaches the sweatshop.”

By the end of the day, The Omega learned that TRUSU and Read had resolved their differences, and that they would now be working together to find alternative clothing suppliers while keeping prices similar to what they are now.

“It is workable,” Read said. “I just wish I had been more in the loop.

“We will be exploring further to see what we can do in the future.”