(Courtesy of Student & Labor Action Movement)
On Tuesday, September 17, members of NYU’s Student & Labor Action Movement (SLAM) led a group of fifteen students in delivering a letter to the NYU administration demanding that the university cut ties with all apparel organizations that fail to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
The accord is a binding legal document that would force brands to ensure acceptable levels of safety in the Bangladeshi factories that manufacture their goods, and would also give workers more power over conditions in their factories. It was after last April’s Rana Plaza collapse, in which over 1,000 Bangladeshi workers were killed after being forced to work in a building known by both management and workers to be unsafe.
“We know that a real solution to these kinds of deadly working conditions has to start with worker power,” said Lucy Parks, a member of SLAM’s coordinating committee, “that’s why it’s so important for students to stand with Bangladeshi workers to demand that these companies sign on to this accord.”
Students tried to deliver the letter to President John Sexton’s office in Bobst Library. President Sexton was unavailable, but Senior Vice President for University Relations Lynne Brown spoke with students and received the letter.
SLAM is demanding that NYU revise its University Code of Conduct to stipulate that NYU will not sign apparel contracts with corporations that refuse to sign the Accord. Like many American universities, NYU currently has contracts with several apparel manufacturers with operations in Bangladesh, including the VF Corporation, which has not yet signed the Accord.
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By pressuring universities to cut their contracts, students can put meaningful pressure on international corporations to respond to the demands of workers. “At SLAM we recognize that the struggles that students face, like debt and unemployment, have a deep relationship to the problems that workers across the world are dealing with,” said SLAM member Robert Ascherman. “We’re both losing out if the economy keeps moving in the direction it’s going now, and we can only get what we need if we work in solidarity with each other.”