Ever wonder where your Rollins t-shirt comes from? Many students would simply answer, “It comes from the bookstore,” but they would be wrong. It actually comes from one of several companies who have factories all over the world, ranging from Honduras to China. But it does not end just there. Ever thought about the thread that keeps your Rollins apparel together? Unfortunately, the workers sewing your shirt together likely work in poor conditions and are not adequately paid. These conditions turn factories into “sweatshops.” That is why Rollins’s newest committee, the Ethical Production Oversight Committee, serves to ensure that your Rollins apparel is not made these conditions.
Sweatshop workers earn as little as a half to a fourth of what they need to provide for basic nutrition, shelter, energy, clothing, education and transportation for both themselves and their families. Therefore, Rollins wanted to take a stand on the issue and ensure that our institution does not indirectly support sweatshop labor.
At the end of last spring semester, the Student Government Association and the Faculty Governance passed a resolution for our institution to take a stronger stance on the conditions under which our Rollins apparel and other Rollins- branded goods are made. As part of that resolution, the Ethical Production Oversight Committee came about. This committee functioned well last semester and faced its largest challenge of joining our institution with the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent organization whom conducts investigations of worker conditions in factories around the world.
Quoted from its website, “the WRC’s primary focus is the labor rights practices of factories producing apparel and other products bearing university logos on behalf of our university affiliates. The WRC investigates working conditions at these factories, issues detailed public reports, and works with factories, North American apparel companies, and workers and local organizations to correct problems and improve respect for worker rights.”
Once the WRC has investigated where institutions produce their apparel, they provide reports detailing the workplace conditions. Rollins officially affiliated with the WRC last semester, and the committee looks forward to working with them to find out where our shirts really come from.
The committee consists of Dr. Tonia L. Warnecke, the committee Chair and assistant professor of Economics; SGA Representative Drew Doty ’13; Student Labor Action Project Representative Louisa Gibbs ’11; Holt SGA Representative Sherry Lewis; Mary Vitelli, store manager of the bookstore; Christopher McClure, operations manager of Rollins Athletics; and Diane Willingham, director of community standards and responsibility.
Warnecke shares, “the Ethical Production Oversight Committee aims to connect Rollins’ values of global citizenship and responsible leadership to the origins of Rollins-branded merchandise. In time, we hope to support a streamlined, cost effective process by which ethically- produced Rollins-branded goods can be purchased and special-ordered by student groups, academic departments, and staff across campus.”
If you have an interest in labor rights or in the newest Rollins committee, then please contact Tonia Warnecke (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Louisa Gibbs (email@example.com) for more information.