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Students unite against sweatshops

POSTED AT 12:02 AM ON Oct. 21, 2013 

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Push pins crowded a world map poster board, representing different countries where students’ clothes were made.

Sophomores Jarek Jarvis and Brittany Belkiewitz, a copy editor at the Indiana Daily Student, stood in front of No Sweat!’s booth at its “Check Your Tags” Awareness Day event Oct. 9.

They checked student clothing tags and explained No Sweat!’s mission: eliminating IU’s dependence on products produced by oppressed workers across the globe.

To continue the fight against IU’s dependency on sweatshop labor, the organization is teaming up with Enactus and Solidarity Ignite to sponsor the Alta Gracia Garment Workers Tour at 7 p.m. today at the Latino Cultural Center.

The event is part of Human Trafficking Awareness Week at IU, which runs today through Friday and is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Global Change.

Alta Gracia is a clothing brand in the Dominican Republic that produces college apparel sold at universities nationwide.

It pays its workers a living wage while also providing safe and healthy working conditions, according to its website.

The event will feature two Alta Gracia workers as they share their stories with the IU community.

Admission is free.

“We want people to realize that the clothes we wear have a great societal impact,” Jarvis said. “This price is much more than the price that we pay for them at the retail store.”

Since the 1990s, No Sweat! has undergone three revivals as an active organization on campus.

Belkiewitz, an international studies and Slavic languages and literatures major, was approached this year by her human rights professor to jump-start the organization once more.

“No Sweat! helped bring fair trade apparel to the bookstore,” Belkiewitz said. “We’re here today to continue this legacy and fight because those before us did not run this race in vain.”

The challenging part is getting people to care, Jarvis said.

“It takes a lot of energy and passion to change your habits and fight for this cause,” Jarvis said. “It’s easier to continue to make the decisions you’ve always made.”

No Sweat! has taken on the task of changing those decisions.

“Education is a huge part of what we’re doing here,” Jarvis said. “Once people realize what’s going on, hopefully they’ll change. It’s hard to know and not do anything.”

Belkiewitz said she encourages all those interested to join No Sweat!, anyone who has a passion for fighting for a cause.

Many laborers around the world live focused on the next pay day, which allows them to buy food and not much else, Belkiewitz said.

“What happens when you get sick and can’t afford to buy medicine?” Belkiewitz said. “Saving is out of the question. People become entangled in a miserable production system.”

All too often, these workers are the source of retail clothing, Belkiewitz said.

“Check your tags,” Belkiewitz said. “We are wearing blood, sweat and tears.”

 

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