Why Students Should Say No to Sweatshops

Story By: Camila Rivera, Reporter

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We are compelled  to buy the latest fashion trends, whether it is the newest Nike’s or the exact same crop top your favorite Instagram model is wearing just to fit in and to feel accepted by a world that only cares for our looks, but it’s time we think about who is making our clothes.

Big brands like Forever 21 and Fashion Nova are one of the fastest manufacturing labels who rely on cheap materials and labor sweatshops to give us our much needed graphic T-shirts.

Although I must admit, I was also one to follow up with all the trends and go to buy clothes to fit in with a crowd until I started to discover ways to stop giving my money to sweatshops.

Together we all must collectively stop buying from these big brands and consider shopping at second-hand clothing stores. 

It might sound hard to go from a cute top from Forever 21 to a used top, but it is a small way to show support for all garment workers.

That is when I found the United Students Against Sweatshops, the largest student-run union in the U.S. 

Let’s look into Forever 21. The clothes are made in the U.S., the richest nation on earth. One would think there wouldn’t be any sweatshops. Yet Forever 21 relies on sweatshop labor to create cheap clothes for Americans. 

In 2016 The California Department of Labor discovered that brands like Forever 21 found a loophole which allowed them to hire an independent factories.

These independent factories pay employees less than $4 per hour. 

Working in hot, cramped conditions with sharp objects at every corner, with no unions, no recourse, and no choices. That’s  a sweatshop. And a $4 salary is abuse.

Even in a liberal state like California, customers happily flock to storefronts like Nike that exploit sweatshop workers.

Nike shoes have become a staple in athletic gear and normal life, spending a lot of money to prove you have money to spend on shoes.

Towards the end of June, Nike faced controversy when they axed a planned Betsy Ross flag design on one of their shoes after Colin Kaepernick expressed his disapproval of the shoes because of the negative connotation the 13 star flag represents.

So Nike stands with activist and obviously cares about the people wearing the shoes but what about the people making the shoes? Nike avoids paying US garment workers the state minimum wages and runs to countries like Indonesia. 

How do we stop sweatshops and fast fashion from happening? We all must collectively stop buying from these big brands and consider shopping at second-hand clothing stores. 

It might sound hard to go from a cute top from Forever 21 to a used top, but it is a small way to show support for all garment workers.

Our own student store sells Nike, Adidas, and Russell, the top three international sweatshop users. The administration knows that brands like these appeal to students, so schools throughout the country sign contracts or obtain sponsorships with Nike and Adidas to sell on campus with the FCC logo. This is unethical, because our tuition should not be supporting sweatshops.

Another way to help, especially as a student, is to join or start your own United Students Against Sweatshops charter on campus. There are workshops and trainings held yearly all over the country to teach students the skill of organizing.

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