USAS Responds to Spanier’s Sweatshop Switch

Graham Spanier issued a statement this afternoon announcing Penn State’s participation in a Knights Apparel program (read: product) that has been endorsed by the Worker’s Rights Consortium.

The program, preliminarily labeled “Above & Beyond” by Knights Apparel, will serve to improve the lives of workers who manufacture collegiate apparel through offering higher standards in working conditions under which collegiate products are produced. The new approach features enhanced wages and benefits.

Wondering how Spanier got hooked up with Knights? This might have something to do with it.

Joseph Bozich, CEO of Knights Apparel, was a participant in last year’s Corporate Social Responsibility Forum hosted by Penn State and has repeatedly proven his commitment to improving labor rights industry-wide.

We contacted United Students Against Sweatshops for their reaction. (It should be noted that the document USAS got from Damon Sims on behalf of Graham Spanier was exactly what was posted on Penn State Live– nothing more.)

Here’s what Fitz, who participated in the December study-in, said:

Although this program seems like a step forward for Penn State, it does not adequately deal with the problem of sweatshops. During the meeting United Students Against Sweatshops had with President Spanier in October this past semester, the president stated that he was interested in addressing the whole supply chain, which everyone at the meeting (roughly 6 USAS members and 6 administrators) agreed was the underlying issue.

By working with just one company, the new “Above & Beyond” program is helping the workers in just one factory. Instead of working with other universities to work to improve conditions globally through the Designated Suppliers Program, Penn State has chosen the easier path. They are doing something, true, but they are not doing enough, nor are they doing all that they could do. If Penn State is serious about helping the workers that produce its apparel, the “Above & Beyond” Program is not using our time and resources effectively. Rather than work with the Designated Suppliers Program to fix flaws in the fundamentals of how all collegiate apparel is made, Penn State has chosen to focus on a very small part.

I am disappointed that President Spanier has chosen to ameliorate the symptoms of sweatshop labor rather than solve the problem.

We share his concern. It does seem that rather than holistically addressing the problem, Spanier has simply shifted laterally the business affiliations of Penn State. To be sure, there seem to be substantial improvements to the living conditions of the workers employed by factories producing Penn State products, but why didn’t Spanier address the issue through the Designated Suppliers Program? I want to hear the reason, and I bet USAS does too.

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Creator of @OnwardState. Big fan of sweaters. Now at Fusion.


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