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UC Berkeley Adopts Revised Sweatshop Policy

By Suzanne La Barre
Tuesday May 09, 2006

On the heels of multiple protests—some clothing-optional—UC has agreed to revise its sweatshop policy, UC Berkeley student activists announced Tuesday. 

UC Berkeley joined with 18 other universities in adopting the Designated Suppliers Program, an anti-sweatshop plan that requires UC licensees to purchase an increasing percentage of university apparel from designated factories. All 10 UC campuses will be held to the new standard. 

Implementation will occur over time, a UC spokesperson said. In the first year, the UC will require licensees to purchase 25 percent of their apparel from factories where employees earn a living wage, are fairly represented and sell the majority of their products to university buyers or others who meet the same standards. The nonprofit Workers Rights Consortium will ensure licensee compliance. If the program is successful, a larger percentage of apparel will derive from sweat-free factories the next year.  

“The collective action of students doing this really pushed this through,” said UC Berkeley junior Lexa Grayner, a member of the group Students Organizing for Justice in the Americas.  

Activists at UC Berkeley mounted pressure on the UC this year by staging a series of naked protests and sit-ins, including a rally last month where 18 students were arrested. Students at other UC campuses also held protests. 

UC Spokesperson Noel Van Nyhuis said the university’s decision to adopt the program was not in response to student opposition. 

“It had more to do with the university having the same ultimate desire—making sure workers have working conditions that meet the university’s code of conduct,” he said.  

The program applies only to UC gear; the production of university uniforms is under the umbrella of UC purchasing, not licensing, said UC President Robert Dynes, and will be dealt with separately. 

A network of student labor activists drafted the Designated Suppliers Program, which has earned the support of Duke University, Georgetown University, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Cornell University, Columbia University and others.