The Student Labor Action Coalition held a campus study-in Friday outside University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s office, continuing its push to get Blank to cut ties with JanSport.
Only about 10 students attended a modest protest that took place outside of Blank’s office in Bascom Hall, where the students spent the time studying and eating pizza.
JanSport, whose parent company VF Corporation has not signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, is licensed to use the UW logo.
Last year, SLAC pushed the university to cut ties with the company on the anniversary of a Bangladeshi factory collapse that killed more than 1,000 workers.
“We have been fighting for now over a year, and it seemed right off the bat that the chancellor was going to be responsive,” Gangler said.
Blank, however, said in a letter to SLAC that the university does not need to cut ties with JanSport because it does not have any connections with Bangladesh.
“Since JanSport does not produce, source or purchase in Bangladesh I do not believe the company should be asked to comply with a regulation that simply does not apply to it,” Blank wrote.
SLAC held a die-in on Bascom last semester to represent the victims of the Rana Plaza incident, and they have also used letter drop-ins, SLAC member Autumn Linsmeier said.
The organization held a rally last week with 40 people, with Bangladeshi garment workers speaking at the event, she said.
In March of last year, the university mandated that 21 companies with ties to Bangladesh sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
Student group pressures chancellor to terminate Jansport partnershipIn the wake of the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed 1,134 people, students have Read…
SLAC member Luke Gangler said their organization ensures the university treats its own employees ethically, makes sure they are sourcing from ethical companies and standing in solidarity with social justice movements.
“The action is really straightforward,” Gangler said. “Just cut the Jansport contract. It’s an action that her own licensing committee last spring voted that she should do. It’s a straightforward thing she’s been delaying for over a year now and it’s very simple: JanSport kills, and we need to stop that.”
However, Blank wrote in her letter that JanSport has autonomy from its parent company to choose where it sources globally, and has not violated the university’s labor code of conduct. Under the code, UW partners are required to abide by the Bangladesh accord.
Since JanSport is free to make its own sourcing decisions, it could be considered a breach of contract if UW were to cut ties with the subsidiary based on actions of VP Corporation, Blank said.
Despite Blank’s decision, SLAC refuses to back down.
Bangladesh is one of the cheapest countries in the world to produce ready-made garments, Gangler said. Many of the factories have “absolutely unacceptable conditions” for their workers, he said.
Working conditions are not up to basic standards in Bangladesh, Linsmeier said. Fire regulations and safety precautions are also not up to par, she said, resulting in factory collapses and fire disasters that could be preventable.
The group will continue its efforts and push for what it believes is right, Linsmeier said.
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified Autumn Linsmeier as Autumn Windsmire. We regret the error.