VIU students have launched a campaign to make the campus sweatshop-free.
The campaign is asking VIU to take on an ethical purchasing policy and join the Workers Rights Consortium.
The Workers Rights Consortium is an organization of colleges and universities that certifies companies that adhere to ethical employment standards.
VIU Students’ Union Chairperson Kirsten Brooker said “working with sweatshop manufacturers is an endorsement of unsafe, unfair, and unethical labour practices.”
Sweatshops are known for not following labour laws, such as not paying well, forcing long hours, lack of safety, and in some extreme cases have employed children as young as the age of five.
The students’ union hopes to present a petition with signatures from at least 25 per cent of the campus by the end of the semester.
Director of External Relations Richard Harlow said students interested in getting involved or willing to sign the petition, can go to the students’ union building and sign the petition there.
Harlow said there is a lot of clothing purchased and sold on campus, so this is a big issue. Not only is there the clothing in the bookstore, but there are multiple clubs and teams that need uniforms. “The hairdressing department, the culinary department, the trades programs, and the sports teams all need to buy uniforms or jerseys,” he said.
Harlow wants students to know that this doesn’t mean they can’t wear the clothes they already have. “A lot of students ask if this means they can’t wear the clothes they own, but this is just about the university buying and selling,” he said.
Harlow said he hopes students will take it upon themselves to look into the places they buy clothes from. “Many people don’t know if the clothes they wear are from a sweatshop. The companies that don’t use sweatshops are usually telling you they don’t, and other places, like Superstore, are notorious for using them,” he said.
Harlow said doubling the wages of a sweatshop worker would increase the price of shirts by 17 cents.
“These companies not only don’t meet Canada’s work standards, but they don’t meet the standards of their own country,” he said.
More information can be found in pamphlets in the students’ union building.