How Much Do Your Clothes REALLY Cost? Meet Campus Celebrity USAS

Meet the newest club on campus, USAS! USAS stands for United Students Against Sweatshops and Boston College has just opened a chapter this semester. I spoke with club members Gemma Stewart and Katie Berlin to find out more about this progressive club.

What exactly is USAS? United Students Against Sweatshops is a national college student organization fighting for the rights of workers all over the world. Since many students attend universities with multi-million dollar apparel programs, USAS aims to not only bring awareness of the unjust sweatshop conditions of many garment factories, but to also show apparel brands, like Under Armour and Nike, that they are responsible for their subcontracted workers. USAS wants to force corporations to sign legally binding documents that will respect workers’ basic rights to fair wages, decent working conditions, and a union.

USAS member Gemma Stewart pledges to make BC sweatshop-free

What made you get involved in USAS? Last month, I watched a documentary on the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 factory workers last year. The documentary interviewed three women who survived the collapse (one who was a mother, one who was eighteen, and another who was only twelve). It was absolutely gut-wrenching to hear these young women narrate their experiences of being stuck in the rubble of the collapse, the twelve year old was stuck in the rubble for two whole weeks waiting to be freed! They also described how they were wide-awake when they had to get their limbs amputated in order to free them from the debris on top of them.  The fact that they went into work every day knowing that the building was unsafe yet nobody was there to protect them or do anything about it made me sick to my stomach. In that moment, I decided to get involved.

USAS member Katie Berlin pledges to make BC sweatshop-free

Why do you think this is something that BC should get involved with? Overall, USAS is trying to improve the lives of workers all around the world one step at a time and to help BC join the national list of sweatshop-free universities. It is a big issue and can seem daunting, but every little bit helps. Through USAS, we are trying to promote conscious consumption and ethical labor practices. As a Jesuit institution, BC should live up to Jesuit beliefs and standards. We should want to make BC sweatshop-free because we value people over profits and it is the right thing to do.

What can we as BC students do to help make BC sweatshop-free? Right now, we are trying to get 1,000 BC signatures on a petition to get Boston College to sign on to the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord. The Accord is designed to make all garment factories in Bangladesh safe workplaces. The Accord also aims to maintain job security for garment workers by forcing suppliers to sign a 2-year contract with factories. By signing the Accord, BC will ensure that our apparel suppliers that manufacture out of Bangladesh invest in factory renovations to ensure workers safety and prevent disasters like Rana Plaza.

How can BC students support USAS or learn more about the organization and its campaign? If BC students want more information, they can come to USAS meetings every Thursday at 7pm in Gasson 301. Also, USAS is having a sunset candle vigil in Gasson Quad to honor the 1-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory Collapse on April 24th at 7:30pm. You can like and follow USAS on Facebook or Twitter as well (BC United Students Against Sweatshops) or email Achilles Aiken with any questions at [email protected].

If you would like to sign the petition, you can find it here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/boston-college-support-the-accord-on-fire-and

If you would like more information, you can find it here: http://northfacedeathtraps.com/