Students rally against GVSU apparel

Call for safety regulations in clothing factories

By Claire Fodell | 3/26/14 7:16pm


Courtesy / Lindsey Disler
USAS protest; Lindsey Disler pictured in center.

Grand Valley State University’s United Students Against Sweatshops is trying to make a difference for laborers once again — this time in Bangladesh.

Last week, USAS members held a protest rally on campus in order to push administrators to sign the Accord on Fire and Building safety in Bangladesh, where GVSU and Louie the Laker-affiliated clothing is manufactured.

“It actually makes sure the workers who make our clothing aren’t killed in the process,” said Lindsey Disler, president of the club.

According to a press release signed by Disler, more than 1,500 garment workers in Bangladesh have died in the last two years in preventable factory fires and building collapses.

The rally is part of a national solidarity campaign that USAS organizations from more than 100 universities across the nation are participating in.

“When we’re united across schools, we’re stronger,” Disler said.

Since the campaign started, 11 universities have already adopted the accords, but GVSU is not one of them.

Disler said she and the club have been working on getting administrators to sign the accord for the past seven months. Though the administration has not agreed to sign, it did write a proposal to change the university code of conduct to help address the issue.

The resolution would hold all producers of items sold at GVSU accountable for the safety of workers, but would exempt GVSU apparel sold at stores off campus. Although the response might have satisfied the administration, Disler and the USAS wanted more.

“Administrators are trying to create a loophole,” Disler said.

The proposal doesn’t include a deadline for when the apparel producers need to sign the agreement, something Disler said often leads to manufacturers not adhering to regulations.

Nationally, the rally on March 20th was very successful, Disler said. She added that GVSU’s chapter of USAS made its own progress by setting a meeting with the administration, which is scheduled for today.

“The administration will see they are making students upset and they are supposed to be listening to the students’ voice,” she said.

The meeting today is not the first time that the USAS has had an audience with GVSU’s administrators. Senior Anthony Brown said one of the main ways that USAS works on their campaigns is by spreading awareness at events on campus where administrators are present.

“Sometimes if we know that someone like (President Thomas) Haas is going to be at a meeting, we go and we try to raise different questions there,” Brown said.

He added that Haas and other administrators are often contacted by USAS, which has created an on-going relationship that helps the club achieve its goals.

Disler said that if more GVSU students want to get involved with the campaign, they can write letters to administrators to explain how the signing of the accord affects students.

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