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No Sweat - Universities

No Sweat University licensing

Students against sweatshopsThe first Canadian code governing "licensing" was passed at the University of Toronto in the spring of 2000. It sets minimum labour standards that manufacturers producing apparel bearing the U of T name or logo must meet. Since then another 12 Canadian universities have passed No Sweat licensing policies.

Who's responsible at your university?

Universities have large bureaucracies and sometimes it's hard to pinpoint who's in charge of policies for "licensing" the use of the school's name. Some schools have a whole department or a director who takes care of licensing. Others leave it to someone in their fundraising department. Still others allow the bookstore manager to make those decisions.

Check your school's directory or ask the manager at the bookstore. There may already be a policy on licensing or bulk purchasing. Request a copy and ask how it can be reviewed and amended. Once you've found who's responsible for setting this policy, you'll know who to talk to about adopting an effective code of conduct.

Getting started

Some schools will have Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) on campus, which have been very supportive of No Sweat campaigning. PIRG staff can help you set up a Students Against Sweatshops group at your school. Local OXFAM or WUSC groups may also want to get involved.

Most groups start out with a public forum on sweatshops, usually with a speaker and a video, and sometimes a Sweatshop Fashion Show. People who attend the forum will probably be interested in joining your group.

Researching who makes school clothing and the countries where it's made is essential. Check the labels on clothing at your school bookstore, and write down the name of the company, the country of origin, and the "CA" number. Labels won't tell you everything you want to know - only through full public disclosure will we know exactly where things are made and under what conditions - but they will give you an idea of who's supplying goods to your school and the countries where they are made.


First and foremost you want the administration to pass a No Sweat code of conduct for licensed goods and bulk-purchased apparel such as staff and athletic uniforms. The strategies and focus of individual schools will depend on the amount of bulk-purchased versus licensed apparel and also what groups feel is within their reach. Achieving a code will no doubt take meetings, lobbying, long discussions and steady student pressure.

Action Ideas:

  • Gather signatures on a petition to show the administration that students want a policy guaranteeing that university apparel is not produced under sweatshop conditions.
  • Ask students in residences to hang banners or posters in their windows supporting your campaign.
  • Set up a mock sweatshop in a prominent place on campus. Br ing in sewing machines, barbed wire or chain link fences, and volunteers to act as workers and security guards.
  • Hand out flyers in front of your bookstore.
  • Arrange to set up displays in hallways or at a library.
  • Build relations with the student media; feed them as much information as possible.
  • Hold debates on campus.
  • Stage a Sweatshop Fashion Show.
  • Organize a demonstration and invite a speaker from a union or human rights group.
  • Plan an e-mail blitz to the president of the university.
  • Make sure to get faculty involved. Arrange to speak in classes and invite teachers to help develop the policy. Ask professors to sign a joint statement of support.
  • Get letters of support from prominent alumni, and have them published in your school paper.
  • Make sure you have the support and involvement of unions on campus and that your policy proposal is consistent with their demands concerning who makes their uniforms.
  • Get endorsement from other campus groups including student council and progressive student organizations such as the campus women's center as early as possible in your campaign.
  • When administrations have been uncooperative, some students have staged sit-ins.
  • Sample university policies