Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Student pressure, project team lead the University to amend vendor code of conduct

The University will not maintain its contracts with apparel companies if they do not agree to sign
a workers’ rights agreement within 30 days, AU President Neil Kerwin announced via an email
memo to the AU community on April 21.

Apparel companies that produce or source University-licensed garments from factories in
Bangladesh must sign the May 13, 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The
accord is a legally-binding contract between Bangladeshi worker representatives, retailers and
apparel companies in order to improve factory safety conditions for workers, according to the
memo.

The accord will aim to improve factory conditions over a five-year period by initiating
independent inspections of factories with published results, offering training sessions for
workers and providing resources for infrastructural improvements of factories, according to the
memo.

Over several months, the Project Team on Social Responsibility and the Business Practices and
Services met with three members of the AU End Deathtraps Coalition in the beginning of March
and with the executive director of the Fair Labor Association, according to the memo. Both
described the workers safety and rights violation concerns that are associated with the
Bangladeshi apparel industry, according to the memo.

The contracted companies that have not signed the accord are, according to a press release
from the AU End Deathtraps Coalition :
● Box Seat Clothing Company
● CC Creations
● MV Sport
● Paramount Apparel
● Twins Enterprise
● Jansport

April 24 marked the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse, the largest
factory disaster in the apparel industry, in which 1,134 Bangladeshi factory workers were killed,
according to the press release.

The End Deathtraps AU Coalition has been organizing since Fall 2014, collecting 500
signatures from AU students and hosting the “Bangladeshi Workers Speak Out!” event where
labor organizer Kalpona Akter and Rana Plaza survivor Reba Sikder described working
conditions before and after the factory collapse, according to the press release.

Because of the amended vendor’s conduct code, the AU End Deathtraps Coalition will not run a
campaign next year but will instead work with the administration to ensure the changes in the
policy are enacted, according to Caiden Elmer, a junior in the School of International Service
and a member of the AU End Deathtraps Coalition and the Student Workers Alliance.

“This victory could not have happened without months of dedicated work from the wonderful
student-activists in our coalition, as well as the courageous activism of organizer Kalpona Akter
and Rana Plaza survivor Reba Sikder in coming to AU to share their story,” Sean Reilly Wood, a
junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the AU End Deathtraps Coalition,
said in an email.

Wood encourages students to join the Student Worker Alliance if they are interested in national
and international workers’ rights.

“We’ve achieved an important victory for worker justice here and we are going to keep on
winning until there is nothing left to win,” Wood said in an email.

acohen@theeagleonline.com


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