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The Tragedy of Sweatshops (Resources)

A concerned group of student and community activists attended Wednesday a Common Action Free School class on the issue of global sweatshop production. The class was led by Barbara Briggs, assistant director of the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights, whose presentation and subsequent discussion was skyped for the audience.

The discussion on sweatshops comes on the heels of a series of terrible factory tragedies in Bangladesh, the most recent being the most deadliest tragedy in the history of the global garment industry, the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. That tragedy shocked the world, with its horrific death toll and the brutal working conditions in the factory. Subsequent inaction by multinational clothing corporations and retailers shone a spotlight on the highly exploitative, low-wage global production system of clothing.

Ms. Briggs provided the economic and political context of the factory tragedy, explaining the race-to-the-bottom sweatshop production system. She then discussed with participants how they can link to the anti-sweatshop movement, working in solidarity with overseas workers.

Below is a compendium of resources for people interested in anti-sweatshop organizing. If you have one that is not included, please include it in a comment below.


Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (formally National Labor Committee)
The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (the Institute) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) human rights organization dedicated to the promotion and defense of internationally recognized worker rights in the global economy. Founded in 1981 as the National Labor Committee, the Institute’s research, in-depth reports, high profile public campaigns and widespread media coverage have been instrumental in creating the anti-sweatshop movement in the United States and internationally. The Institute is headquartered in Pittsburgh with regional offices in Dhaka and San Salvador and research/advocacy partnerships in China, Jordan, Central America and South Asia.

United Students Against Sweatshops
United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a grassroots organization run entirely by youth and students. We develop youth leadership and run strategic student-labor solidarity campaigns with the goal of building sustainable power for working people. We define “sweatshop” broadly and consider all struggles against the daily abuses of the global economic system to be a struggle against sweatshops. We envision a world in which society and human relationships are organized cooperatively, not competitively. We struggle towards a world in which all people live in freedom from oppression, in which people are valued as whole human beings rather than exploited in a quest for productivity and profits.

Worker Rights Consortium
The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) is an independent labor rights monitoring organization, conducting investigations of working conditions in factories around the globe. Our purpose is to combat sweatshops and protect the rights of workers who make apparel and other products. The WRC conducts independent, in-depth investigations; issues public reports on factories producing for major brands; and aids workers at these factories in their efforts to end labor abuses and defend their workplace rights. The WRC is proud to have the support of over 175 college and university affiliates, including Illinois State University, and our primary focus is the labor practices of factories that make university-related apparel.

STITCH supports women workers in their efforts to plan and carryout organizing campaigns in Central America and the United States. Through a feminist perspective, STITCH sustains new and existing unions by offering leadership development workshops, trainings and exchanges that increase skills and build ties of understanding among women workers and activists.

Clean Clothes Campaign
The Clean Clothes Campaign is dedicated to improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industries.

Global Exchange
We envision a people centered globalization that values the rights of workers and the health of the planet; that prioritizes international collaboration as central to ensuring peace; and that aims to create a local, green economy designed to embrace the diversity of our communities.

Sweatfree Communities
SweatFree Communities (SFC) is a national network of anti-sweatshop organizations that works to build a global economy with justice and equity. We reject the sweatshop labor regime, oppression, environmental destruction, and erosion of democracy at the core of corporate-controlled globalization. We campaign for worker justice, and work for a global trading system that reflects the values of working people and communities worldwide, giving just workplaces a chance to succeed. SweatFree Communities recognizes the great potential for using government procurement and humane purchasing practices to build a system of fair trade and create positive alternatives to global sweatshops in apparel and other labor-intensive industries.

USLEAP (U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project)
The U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Chicago that engages a wide range of organizations and individuals in the U.S. and abroad to promote full respect for the rights of workers in Latin America. Founded in 1987 as the U.S./Guatemala Labor Education Project, the organization advocates for fundamental changes to U.S. trade policies, demands corporate responsibility, denounces violence against trade unionists, and conducts worker justice campaigns in the banana, flower, and apparel sectors. USLEAP seeks a global economy in which all workers, abroad and in the U.S., are treated fairly, paid a living wage, and respected by corporations and governments.

For more organizations, consult the list at the Worker Rights Consortium website.


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