Posted by Owen, a resident of another community, on May 22, 2007 at 11:52 pm
When a factory raises its labor standards, apparel companies abandon it. The solution? Pledge only to contract with companies that order from factories with decent labor standards. This is what Stanford students are asking the university to do. Dozens of schools have already signed on to the WRC and DSP monitoring programs. These students have a solid proposal and are running a great campaign!
Posted by Kate, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on May 23, 2007 at 10:20 am
Moral issue or no moral issue, if I were a parent paying that kind of tuition and room and board, I've written my last check. In California state schools, a parent doesn't get the report card if the student is an 'adult' - eighteen and over. My stance was, if I don't see the report card, I don't pay the next semester's tuition, room and board and fees,. Take it or leave it. And no bail money either for stunts like this. I always got the report card and all graduated.
Posted by Chandra, a resident of another community, on May 23, 2007 at 10:46 am
While I do not condone sweatshops or child labor, what makese these well-to-do, BMW driving, latest cell-phone brandishing students think they understand reality? I have seen many a children in Indian sweatshops earn a decent living, support their families, and even work their way through school. Of course, stories of bonded and abused child laborers aren't uncommon either. If one isn't addressing the two critical challenges of child labor: short-term income & long-term prospects, he/she is doing more harm than good by merely 'protesting'.
Is 'protesting' just a fad these days? Or, is there a heart-felt motive? I really wonder.
Posted by enough already, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on May 23, 2007 at 11:00 am
Good point, Chandra. How many of these protestors are working towards their MBAs? Perhaps they could direct their energy, education & talents toward initiating change and solving the underlying problems. It'd certainly be a more constructive use of their skills.
Posted by Artemis, a resident of East Palo Alto, on May 23, 2007 at 3:53 pm
Since Stanford is a university with no tuition, I think the people who would have "written their last check" are way off base. Don't you want your children to engage with the world and use their voices and priveleges as US citizens to speak out against great injustice with compassion? If we sit idly by and enjoy our non-sweatshop jobs while others suffer, doesn't that make us morally reprehensible? Would Jesus fight against sweatshops and child labor the way he railed against the moneychangers at the temple? I think so.
In a free society, nonviolent protest has an important function: to remind the citizenry that not everyone enjoys the peaceful, affluent society we do, and to help pull for a better standard of living for all human beings across the world. The Civil rights movement and others have all made great strides for equality, and much of it was done in the spirit of Ghandi's nonviolent resistance. We will only be safe from terrorism when the whole world is free and has enough to eat.
Instead of assuming that all Stanford students are wealthy, cell-phone toting future business people, you might ask yourselves: What am I doing today to help? How am I fighting against intolerance, injustice and bigotry in my daily life? How can I be a part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem? How can I avoid rushing to judge other people before I have all the information, and how can I give everyone around me the benefit of the doubt and show loving kindness and compassion to all I come in contact with?
Then you might actually be doing something useful instead of passing judgement on young people trying to do their best in an often mean world.
Posted by Henri, a resident of East Palo Alto, on May 23, 2007 at 5:03 pm
For clarification, Artemis, I should point out that Stanford is tuition free only for graduate students. Undergrads pay on a need-based sliding scale. This means that while some Stanford students are wealthy, you do not need to be wealthy to attend Stanford and not all Stanford students are wealthy. While Chandra's stereotype of the BMW-driving Stanford student may describe some students, THOSE ARE NOT THE STUDENTS WHO GO TO PROTESTS! What the protesters did showed courage and dedication, and deserves respect.
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 23, 2007 at 5:42 pm
I recall when Japan undersold American manufacturers because of their lower wages. Now their wages are on a par with ours because they had a chance. These students, well meaning as they may be, are denying the bottom rung of the ladder to those who have no other hope. It would be nice, however, if these students could protest slave grown chocolate. They might even learn something that has apparently slipped by in their classrooms.
Posted by Chandra, a resident of another community, on May 23, 2007 at 11:29 pm
In response to Artemis:
First of all, I appreciate the dialogs here. If you were to conduct a survey tomorrow, you'll find that my so called 'general assumptions' are grounded in reality.
I do ask myself everyday:
"What am I doing today to help? How am I fighting against intolerance, injustice and bigotry in my daily life? How can I be a part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem?"
I contribute by doing my bit at the grass-roots, not by protesting in front of Macy's or Louis vuitton. How can you be sure that as a result of the university canceling the apparel contract, livelihoods of already impoverished folks won't be stolen? How? If someone can prove to me that these protests have a farther reaching impact and actually help the long-term cause, I'll gladly join in. I've seen first hand the challenges faced in these developing and under-developed countries and if you don't smell, breathe, and live the problem, it's unfortunately hard to fathom a solution. Don't get me wrong, I very much appreciate your feelings and intent; it's just that I know better coming from the trenches. I spend a fair deal of my time (not nearly enough, I admit) helping God-like people who work with these kids day-in day-out. They run orphanages, free schools, free clinics, industrial training. Why not help by helping these warriors?
Posted by Wrong, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 23, 2007 at 11:56 pm
The idea that third world countries are developing economically and sweatshops are a stage in their development (like Japan) is just plain wrong. Using this analogy shows your ignorance. The differences between the Japanese economy post-WWII and current global south manufacturing economies are so great that I don't know where to begin.
Posted by c'mon, a resident of another community, on May 24, 2007 at 12:05 am
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The students are asking Stanford to only contract with manufacturers that have decent labor standards. This is accomplished through an independent monitoring group that investigates factory conditions.
Posted by Owen, a resident of another community, on May 24, 2007 at 12:12 am
Walter: I don't understand what you're saying. Stanford is going to be employing just as many workers as before in the global south to make its clothing. The difference is that these workers will actually be able to live on what they make, not get cancer from the illegal chemicals they're exposed to, not get killed for trying to form a union etc. Because over 100 schools are already doing this, the labor standards will rise across the industry. I hope this clears things up for you.
Posted by CLT, a resident of Stanford, on May 24, 2007 at 12:52 am
I am a student at Stanford University who is paying only $5000/yr because that is all my family can afford. I went to an elementary school where most of the population were probably undocumented, even some of the youngest children, because their parents had come to the US in hopes that they could make better wages and give their children a better chance at a bright, EDUCATED future.
Sadly, the community they ended up in, that I lived in alongside with them, could not give them the kind of education and opportunities that some of those BMW, cell phone toting "Stanford" students you "noted" have. Admittedly, even though I am at Stanford University now, I did not even know that the University then. I did not know anything about Stanford University until my sophomore year in high school. THAT is an example of the "outreach" we were given.
I am at Stanford to rectify this wrong.
Not all of us are trust fund babies here. Some of us are here to make a difference in the world that you take for granted. Admittedly some of my peers side with the "stereotypists" that what we did was pointless, but can't you see that if you don't take a stand, make a bold statement, or even a "pointless" action, NOTHING WILL EVER HAPPEN! Is that the world you wish to live in?
I have to say no. I have said no and I will continue to support the campaign, nay-sayers keep on neighing...
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 24, 2007 at 6:35 am
So when the sweat shop raises its wages and is priced out of other markets and the workers lose their jobs? Except for the chocolate plantations you all ignore, no one is forced to work in a sweat shop, and sweat shops pay the going wage.
And Kim, a sit-in is a denial of the right of others to go about their way, and is close enough to violent to necessitate violent put down. The 33rd word is peaceably. Free speech does not guarantee an audience.
Posted by Chandra, a resident of another community, on May 24, 2007 at 6:47 am
I certainly will shut up after this comment. Not sure how my comments came across as mean spirited. CLT, my sincere apologies to you. I probably generalized a bit much. I was just one of those kids living on one of the many giant mountains of garbage you describe, that's all. I saw the good in people - people willing to roll up their sleeves and work with us in the dirt & smell. I respect all of your comments and I apologize if any of my words hurt any of you. But, my mind is very clear on what works and what doesn't.
I reiterate: Help by addressing both short-term income & long-term prospects.
Posted by Dennis Kim, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on May 24, 2007 at 11:10 am
You can't negotiate when the other side has all the power. That's why civil disobedience exists. Do you not believe that people had the right to sit-in at lunch counters for desegregation?
How did students deny the right of others to go about their way? They sat in the lobby and did not block any doors or passageways. You are calling a very minor inconvenience (what, being forced to look at students sitting on the ground?) a violent action.
And the audience was not the administrators, it was the media. You and I both heard about it, so they were effective.
Posted by Owen, a resident of another community, on May 24, 2007 at 11:14 am
Walter: READ THE VERY FIRST COMMENT. No one loses their jobs. This is the brilliance of the WRC and the designated supplier's program. It actually PREVENTS the dislocation that occurs when factories close down because companies find a cheaper factory. And it raises standards across the industry.
Also, you are mistaken if you believe sweatshop conditions are in any way acceptable. Just because it is not slavery or it is the "going rate" doesn't mean it shouldn't change.
Posted by Yes, a resident of another community, on May 24, 2007 at 11:19 am
Chandra: I understand now where your response is coming from. Your feelings were just misdirected, that's all. These students are on your side, and relatively speaking, have experiences more similar to yours than most other students at Stanford.
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 24, 2007 at 9:56 pm
I am well aware of what sweat shops are - in the 30s and 40s most jobs here were like that. If you raise the cost of operation, the sweat shops lose out to cheaper manufacturers, unless you are willing to purchase the total output of the mill, in which case they will probably fire half their workers and sub out the work. No one is forced to work in sweat shops the way slaves are forced to work in chocolate. It is their best bet.
Posted by Owen, a resident of another community, on May 25, 2007 at 12:03 am
Walter let me explain this a little more- the program students are advocating for restricts companies from abandoning factories for cheaper ones-
The organization which the students are asking the administration to partner with, which is called the Designated Supplier's Program, is designed to address concerns of job loss and relocation. (Although it should be noted that job loss happens all the time, on a giant and destructive scale, in the current globalized garment industry because corporations search for the cheapest labor, and its constantly changing geographically) The idea behind the DSP is that the University, in partnership with many other universities nationwide who have already signed on to the DSP, will pressure corporations, lets say Nike, to only contract with factories that abide by a certain code of conduct when it comes to producing Stanford apparel. The catch? These factories must already be factories that Nike is contracting from. So Nike will actually be requested to fund the upgrades in these factories, and continue contracts with them for a set period of time. The idea is to slowly improve the conditions in these places while working WITH corporations like Nikeó all powered by the influence of consumer morals.
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 25, 2007 at 5:25 am
Owen, what would you do if you were asked to figure a way around this cartel? California used to have Fair Trade laws, where merchants could go to jail for selling a product below the designated price.