The sit-in, which was accompanied by a protest in the Main Quad with about 60 students, came after several months of discussion between the student group, the Sweat-free Stanford Campaign, and Hennessy and other university officials about how best to ensure that workers making Stanford-licensed goods receive safe and fair treatment.
The Campaign states in the late 1990s, an anti-sweatshop movement swept campuses across the United States. College activists marched in rallies, waged hunger strikes, circulated petitions, and occupied their school president’s office, all in an effort to make their campus clothing sweat-free. They were remarkably successful in their efforts. Today, 160 colleges and universities have taken a first step by becoming affiliated with the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). In doing so, each school has created and adopted its own manufacturing Code of Conduct that guarantees workers basic human rights. To help with enforcement of these Codes of Conduct, the United Students Against Sweatshops created a Designated Suppliers Program (DSP), where factories had to earn DSP certification by demonstrating that they, among other things, pay their workers a living wage and allow them to form democratic unions. Unfortunately, Stanford is neither a part of the WRC or the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP), and it has historically been opposed to participating in either organization.
On their website the Campaign spells out why they exist and what they want:
We fear that some of Stanford’s business practices do not reflect our values; we fear that Stanford’s current sourcing policies allow for sweatshops to produce our apparel. Apparel bearing the Stanford insignia bears the reputation of this university, and it is imperative that such symbols are manufactured and distributed with moral integrity.The following story comes from the Stanford Daily.
There is a system already in place for Stanford to guarantee that their clothes are not made in sweatshops. Through independent monitoring, the consolidation of factories producing Stanford clothing, and a factory certification process, the Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC) and Designated Suppliers Program (DSP) ensure that factory conditions are humane. Under this system, workers are guaranteed a living wage, the right to unionize, freedom from harassment and intimidation, and a safe working environment.
Today, 166 schools, including Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania, are all a part of the Workers’ Rights Consortium. 30 schools, including Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, Duke, and the entire UC system, have taken the next step by also joining the Designated Suppliers Program. Clearly, the WRC and DSP are well-established and respected mechanisms through which we can ensure the protection of fundamental human rights in the manufacture of our apparel. As students, we ask that Stanford University take a vigorous stand against sweatshops by affiliating itself with the WRC and DSP.
11 arrested in Hennessy’s office
Sweat-Free Coalition spearheads sit-in, naked rally, vigil and protests
May 23, 2007
By Maneesha Limaye
Eleven students were arrested late yesterday afternoon outside of President John Hennessy’s office after they participated in a five-hour sit-in to protest what they allege is the University’s refusal to join organizations that would curb sweatshop labor in factories that produce Stanford apparel.
The students were cited for trespassing and taken away in plastic handcuffs after they refused to leave the lobby of the president’s office when it closed for the day. As police escorted the protesters out of the building, about 35 onlookers chanted in support.
“We are shocked and disappointed that the University has chosen to do this to its students,” said Bethany Woolman ‘09, “but we are prepared to deal with the consequences.”
The protesters, including Woolman, stormed Hennessy’s office at 11:30 a.m. Although the office usually closes at 5 p.m., Hennessy’s office closed at 4:15 p.m. yesterday. Jeff Wachtel, senior assistant to Hennessy, said that management was trying to compensate for the office’s lost lunch break, which was due to the protest. The protestors were arrested and taken to the Stanford police station at 4:30 p.m., where they were held for 90 minutes before being released around 6 p.m.
Katie Frank ‘09, one of the students arrested, said the police were sympathetic and generally friendly.
University officials questioned the timing of the protest, which came a week before Hennessy had offered to meet with group leaders.
“I don’t completely get why now,” said Wachtel in an interview with The Daily after the arrests. “Preisdent Hennessy indicated that he wanted to work with them and was ready to meet with the students as soon as his schedule opened up.”
“This is an important issue,” he added, “but there have been other issues that the University is involved with and students may not realize that it takes time.”
Woolman confirmed that the group had been invited to meet on May 29, but she said the group declined the request.
“We don’t need any more meetings,” she said. “They have all the information they need from us. Today we were asking for a response.”
One of the protest’s organizers, Daniel Shih ‘09, said the administration ignored the coalition through the day.
“None of the administration has met with us all day,” he said. “They all said they were too busy.”
Wachtel said that Dean of Students Maureen Powers had spent the day addressing student concerns.
Protestors said police told them that the penalty for the misdemeanor is up to a $500 fine or three months in jail. If the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office decides to press charges, their court date is set for July 10.
The Sweat-Free Coalition has been trying to persuade the University to join the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) and the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP), two organizations which, they say, would cut down on apparent sweatshop labor overseas.
Wachtel said the administration shares some of the activists’ goals and objectives, but they are weighing a variety of options.
“The odd thing is that we agree that we don’t want people working in factories to be treated unfairly,” Wachtel said. “Some believe the WRC and the DSP are the ways to respond, but we haven’t come to the same conclusion.”
He added that the University was considering other options.
“Some of the organizations that are being considered may have consequences and we are trying to think that through,” he said. “It’s a complex issue and it’s not as simple to just join.”
Shih said the end result of the protest was not what the coalition had envisioned, but that members felt compelled to take action because of what they said was the University’s reluctance to make concessions.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted it to,” he said. “We came in wanting one thing, to join the WRC and DSP. But we are not going to give up because President Hennessy needs to understand that it is not okay to arrest students for standing up for what they believe in.”
“We fundamentally must fight this cause,” he added. “We refuse to compromise.”
University officials, however, said the students’ unwillingness to compromise evidenced by yesterday’s protest was a step backwards for their cause.
“There was no compromise position on their part,” Wachtel said. “They didn’t want to hear what President Hennessy had to say next week on what his proposal would be.”
Although the protesters called their demonstration an act of civil disobedience, administrators said the students’ actions were inappropriate. Wachtel said the students brought kitty litter to the president’s office with the intent to defecate in front of Hennessy’s receptionists.
“They say they are peaceful and civil, but that was not a civil or respectful action,” Wachtel said. “They had no business in here so we were not going to allow them to use the bathroom.”
Although the protestors admitted to bringing kitty litter with them, they said no one used it. Woolman said she was told she could not use the restroom in the office because it was private property, and that if she left to use the outside restrooms, she would not be allowed back inside.
“We brought the kitty litter in case we were in there for days,” she said. “No one defecated in the room.”
The arrested students include: Pahua Cha ‘10, Joseles de la Cruz ‘07, Katie Frank ‘09, Scott Frank, Mark Liu ‘07, Yang Lor ‘08, Kasiana McLenaghan ‘09, Matt Seriff-Cullick ‘08, Bethany Woolman ‘09, Crystal Zheng ‘10 and graduate student Daniel Weissman.