Letters to the Editor

Letter: Bookstore opposes sweatshop labor

Monday, March 19, 2012

To the Editor:

An article in Friday’s Herald (“Teach-in calls for end to sweatshop purchases,” March 15) correctly recognized the University’s early national leadership in the drive to end sweatshop labor in the production of university apparel. For that, thank you. Brown was indeed a founding member of worker-rights organizations and continues to work against the exploitation of third world labor.
The second paragraph of your story, however, included an unchallenged statement that “the sweaters, the T-shirts – almost everything (in the Brown Bookstore) is being produced in a sweatshop.” That is simply not true. Your readers should know that:

  • All vendor licenses for Brown apparel are managed by the Licensing Resource Group. Brown-licensed apparel is produced solely by companies that honor Brown’s Vendor Code of Conduct, are members of the Fair Labor Association and honor the rules and code of conduct of the Worker Rights Consortium.
  • The vendor group providing 70 percent of branded apparel for the bookstore has inspectors in the factories in all 12 countries where the product is produced.
  • The Brown Bookstore has received no complaints of unfair labor practices from the Fair Labor Association, Worker Rights Consortium or Licensing Resource Group regarding any vendors who furnish Brown-licensed apparel.
  • The Brown Bookstore is working with manufacturers to feature more made-in-America items and to develop product lines manufactured by Alta Gracia, a manufacturer in the Dominican Republic that pays its workers a living wage – 338 percent of the prevailing wage.
  • The Brown Bookstore has refused to carry merchandise from suppliers who insist on exemptions from provisions of the University’s Vendor Code of Conduct.
  • The Brown Bookstore, the University’s senior administration and student groups have worked together effectively in the past to address sweatshop labor, as your story points out. The bookstore has championed Brown’s code of conduct for vendors for more than a decade. We intend to continue that work.

Steven Souza
Director, Brown University Bookstore