Tuesday, April 03, 2007


In a protest over sweatshops, a group of a dozen University of Michigan students took over the reception area of the university president’s office today.

“We’re here until the president takes some action,” Blasé Kearney told the Detroit Free Press.

The group Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality led the action.

The university's administration has been asked by students and SOLE to adopt a program called the Designated Suppliers Program. The DSP requires brands such as Nike or Adidas to produce university goods from factories where workers have a right to form a union.

"While the University of Michigan has been dragging its feet, workers taking risks to stand up for their rights are losing their jobs," Aria Evert, a member of SOLE, said. "If our university is truly committed to workers' rights then we must adopt the DSP immediately, before more factories are forced to close their doors."

A representative from SOLE said 30 other universities have already committed to the DSP program.

The following articles comes from the Detroit News.

Students stage sit-in at U-M president's office to protest sweatshops

ANN ARBOR -- Students carrying sleeping bags, boxes of food, cell phones and laptop computers occupied the office of the University of Michigan's president Tuesday to protest what they said is the school's failure to follow its own policy against contracting sweatshops to make university logo apparel.

"Why am I doing this? Because this is the University of Michigan," said Jason Bates, a 21-year-old sophomore economics student from Novi. "If there is any place where decency and responsibility should be expected from our leaders, it is here."

Bates was among a dozen students who settled into chairs and onto the floor of the staff and reception area outside U-M President Mary Sue Coleman's private office in the Fleming Administration Building shortly after 9 a.m. They vowed to stay until Coleman agrees to honor a policy adopted after another student protest in 1999.

Former U-M President Lee Bollinger established a contractor's code of conduct following a 51-hour student occupation of the same office, calling for the university to contract only with vendors who meet basic humanitarian principals in dealing with workers.

The students claim the university has failed to follow that code. Their demands include Coleman's acceptance of a list of clothing suppliers that the students say pay decent wages and allow workers to unionize.

Students who spoke with a News reporter by cell phone, said they have seen police officers, but have not been threatened or told to move. They said Coleman's staff has treated them kindly. However, they were concerned about what might happen after 5 p.m., when public access to the building closes.

The group inside said more students are prepared to take up the protest by sleeping outside the administration building if they get kicked out or arrested.

University officials were unavailable for comment.

"We made it clear we were getting comfortable and she (Coleman) came out of her private office, Bates said. "We made our demands and made it clear that it is time to get serious on sweatshops. She said something along the lines of, 'We aren't interested in student demands.' "

Bates said Coleman then went back behind her inner office door.

"We let her know that when she was ready to talk, she would know where she could find us. Enough is enough. We aren't leaving. We are putting our foot down on this one."

Blase Kearney, 20, a sophomore political science and Asian studies student said his parents in Cadillac told him to not call them if he gets arrested.

"We expect the university should deal only with companies that pay a living wage and recognize the right to organize. No sweatshop conditions," Kearney said. "We're not leaving until she complies with our demands."

1 comment:

Leigh said...

I would just like to update the situation. All 12 students who occupied the office were arrested around 6pm last night for trespassing. This shattered a 30 year record of not arresting students involved in non violent protest at the University of Michigan.

Upon exiting the building the arrestees were met with the cheers of 70 supportive students and community members who had chalked their names and "solidarity" on the ground to show support. All students were released and are awaiting the prosecutor's decision on legal action.

Everyone involved in the sweatfree campaign sit in would like to thank anyone who called in, helped out or cared in anyway and encourage people to visit the website: uofmsitin.com.

In Solidarity,
Leigh (leigh.wedenoja@gmail.com)