Volume 95, Issue 17

Friday, September 28, 2001
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No Sweat! Students sew for a cause

Locals fear planes, love trains

Contentious debate in BOG

Q&A with MSA president

Community ties can survive terrorism

Suspicious inquiries reinforce fears of bio-warfare

No Sweat! Students sew for a cause

By Erin Conway-Smith
Gazette Staff

Sweatshop conditions and scissors poised to cut off clothing labels met Western students on the concrete beach yesterday.

"We have to expose people to the realities of sweatshop conditions," said Mike Gretes, president of Oxfam UWO and a participant in Sweatshop Guerrilla Theatre.

Gretes said the event was designed to raise awareness among the student population.

"People tend to ignore what goes on – there's also a sense of helplessness. We are trying to get students to ask questions about their clothes and where they were made," he said.

A mock sweatshop was staged, complete with sewing machines and female students playing the roles of workers while men acted as guards. The female workers were gagged in silence, while the guards shouted out orders and warnings, providing a glimpse of the conditions sweatshop workers endure.

Passers-by were asked to sign a petition and cut off labels from their clothing. Gretes explained the labels will be collected and sent to federal Minister of Industry Brian Tobin, along with the petition, in hopes of getting changes made to the Textiles Labelling Act.

The desired changes would require clothing labels to carry more information, Gretes said. In addition to the "CA#" on labels, which indicates the Canadian location of the manufacturing company, "companies would also be required to disclose the location of outsourcing locations," Gretes said.

He explained the number helps people find out where and in what type of conditions their clothing was made.

"People in principle are against sweatshops," he said, but added many students may not know what steps they can take to stop them.

The entire event, entitled Sweatshop Guerrilla Theatre," involved members from Oxfam UWO, Students Against Sweatshops and Huron GLOBE.

The event was co-ordinated by the Cross Cultural Learner Centre, as the kick-off event for Fair Trade Action Days.

Ricki Justice, co-creator of Huron GLOBE, an international awareness club, said she was involved because "at Western, this is an important issue that we know where clothing comes from.

"People at Huron are concerned about that – we want to know where our clothes were made."

University Students' Council VP-campus issues Sera Vavala said she had seen the activities on the concrete beach and thought it was a great idea, adding the petition is a good step to try and get companies to disclose manufacturing information.

Third-year political science student Darren Pelcz said he had the labels on his clothing cut off at the event.

"I think it's really ingenious because [the clothing labels] are actually going to go to Tobin. Most petitions don't go anywhere."

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Copyright The Gazette 2001