May 9, 2006 – Students working to end abuses of workersâ€™ rights in the factories that make their school apparel won a victory in California last Friday after months of escalating protest.
The University of California system announced it will join eighteen other schools nationwide in implementing a "designated supplier" program. Students had waged sit-ins at multiple state schools â€“ actions they credit with helping to win force university officialsâ€™ hand.
The designated-supplier deal is a step up from a code of conduct the university signed onto in 1998. The code outlines various standards for factories from which the university buys its sports and other school apparel. But the new agreement will force the university to buy a certain percentage of its clothing only from factories that have been approved by an independent board.
In return for demonstrating respect for collective-bargaining rights and paying a living wage to their employees â€“ two standards that are not included in the current code of conduct â€“ the designated factories will receive payment from universities that is slightly above the industry norm.
In the first year, University of California contractors will be required to buy 25 percent of apparel from designated suppliers. Each year, the percentage will increase.
"We showed the power of workers and students uniting across borders, and the administration yielded to our demands," said James Cain, a student of the University of Californiaâ€“San Diego. "Now it's up to other schools to listen to the student movement."
Last week Brandies University also signed onto a designated supplier agreement, after an 8-month student campaign there. And on the April 27, the University of Colorado at Boulder issued "qualified support" for the program after caving to thirteen hunger-striking students.