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Students Urge Schools to Stop Using Bangladeshi Factories For Collegiate Gear

College students have always been good at making noise when things are unjust–now they are speaking out against using Bangladeshi factories to produce collegiate gear.

Because of the much discussed factory safety failures bringing the country under scrutiny lately, students from United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) are urging their schools to stop selling licensed gear produced by manufacturers who haven’t signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, an enforceable worker safety program that has already gained support from more than 80 companies.

The Accord is a five-year agreement designed to improve workplace safety in Bangladesh. Under the pact, workers can refuse to work in unsound conditions and must still receive regular pay if a factory is closed for renovations to meet compliance.

VF Corp. and Nike, Inc. have yet to sign the agreement and both companies have contracts with American universities to produce the T-shirts, hats and other gear for the $4.5 billion collegiate licensing industry, WSJ reported.

USAS, which has organized chapters on over 150 campuses, has been fighting the cause for months, staging protests at Gap, Inc. who also hasn’t signed the Accord and saying, “Nobody should die for UW [University of Washington] fashion.”

Grace Flott, USAS Co-Chair said in the Daily UW, “I think it’s important to understand the whole issue that factory fires and health and safety hazards are essentially the product of pressure from large companies, like Walmart, who forces prices down, which forces managers of factories to sacrifice safety.” Walmart, one of Bangladesh’s biggest clothing buyers, has not signed the Accord.

Some brands that haven’t put their names on the pact cite concerns over the Accord’s wording on legal liability and some–including Walmart–say they will do their own due diligence to see that factories they use are safe.

“Many suppliers are still pursuing the failed self-regulatory approach,” Garrett Strain, international campaigns coordinator for USAS, told WSJ. “We hope suppliers of U.S. collegiate clothing will join the legally binding Bangladesh safety accord without delay,” he added.