The Thistle Volume 13, Number 4: June/July, 2001.


Sweatshop Clothing at MIT


by Julia De Kadt

Do you know who made your MIT sweatshirt? What were they paid? Whether their working conditions were safe or not? Whether their rights were violated as they worked? Unfortunately, you probably donít. And chances are, nobody else does either.

Currently, MIT has no policies in place to prevent the use of sweatshop labor in the production of MIT clothing. MIT is not affiliated with any labor rights groups, and does not require manufacturers of MIT licensed apparel to adhere to any code of conduct regarding their labor practices.

The Coop, where most MIT licensed products are sold, doesnít really have a policy either. It is run by Barnes and Noble, which does require clothing companies to sign a code of conduct. However, the code they must sign is fairly limited, and is not enforced at all. Barnes and Noble does not attempt to monitor companies, and does not require that factory locations or conditions be disclosed.

Clearly then, if anybody is looking out for workerís rights, it must be the clothing companies themselves. And while some companies are at least beginning to look at labor rights issues, most are not. While all companies have signed the Barnes and Noble code of conduct, few appear to be actually taking this code at all seriously.

So, right now, there is absolutely no way to be sure that the MIT clothing you buy is sweat-free. The good news, however, is that MIT has indicated that it is willing to discuss the adoption of an anti-sweatshop policy. If you are interested in helping to form that policy, you can come to a meeting this Sunday (June 10), 8pm, at Senior House. For more information, and references for the information above, please look at web.mit.edu/juliad/www/sweatshops/home.html. You can also add yourself to sweatshop@mit.edu for periodic announcements and discussion.



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The Thistle Volume 13, Number 4: June/July, 2001.