UK takes stand against sweatshops

By Morgan Eads | @KyKernel

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After months of pushing from students, university employees and community members, UK has affiliated with an organization geared towards protecting the rights of workers.

President Eli Capilouto and UK’s administration officially affiliated with the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) Friday in a move that ensures the conditions in which UK apparel is made will be closely monitored.

The United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) has staged protests, made valentines and held candlelight vigils in hopes of making this affiliation a reality.

“I am so pleased that we were able to bring students together and let them know that they are a powerful voice,” said Alli Sehon, USAS member and anthropology senior.

Members of USAS met with Capilouto in late-January to convince him of the benefits to be reaped from an affiliation with WRC.

“I was so pleased to see UK students and administration come together and listen to each other to make a difference,” Sehon said. “It has been the high point of my four years at UK.”

Capilouto also expressed a positive attitude concerning the collaboration in a statement about the affiliation.

“I am very appreciative of the manner in which these students have engaged with me on this issue and am gratified to be part of an institution that puts into practice the values it espouses,” Capilouto said.

USAS member and history and political science senior Jared Flanery was also caught by surprise with the university’s decision.

“I must admit I was personally surprised, I was very thrilled,” Flanery said. “We were all pleased … it shows that as students and faculty our voices can collectively be heard.”

USAS member and political science sophomore Sanjana Pampati said the campaign for the affiliation made huge difference.

“I think the USAS campaign brought the issue to students’ attention,” Pampati said. “I had not known about it, but USAS got people talking about it and brought about the dialogue that led to the change.”

Sehon said the WRC will have a positive effect on UK students as well as the workers it protects.

“(Students) now know that the code of conduct is not only held up but investigated, the name they pay towards shines a little brighter knowing it’s not being put on sweatshop apparel,” Sehon said.

As the fourth largest licenser of athletic apparel, UK is setting an example for other institutions by affiliating with the WRC, Flanery said.

After reaching this goal, USAS will move on to other campaigns including work to prevent UK from outsourcing its dining services, Sehon said.

For now, though, the club is celebrating the victory they have been working towards since July.

“I love UK, I’ve never gone a day not loving UK,” Sehon said. “Now I have an extra reason to love it even more.”