Five student members of the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation lay on the ground under white sheets in Hahn Plaza Thursday afternoon to symbolize 1,100 workers who died in factory fires in Bangladesh in the last year. A banner above the bodies read “1,100 killed, President Nikias End Trojan Deathtraps.”
The group aimed to raise awareness about sweatshop-like labor conditions in unsafe factories in Bangladesh where USC apparel is produced through their “die-in” protest. SCALE hoped to prompt Nikias to amend the code of conduct to ensure that all Trojan apparel brands have signed a legally binding contract that would hold them accountable for unsafe factory violations in Bangladesh.
“I don’t want Trojan apparel to be found in the next factory disaster,” said Chanelle Yang, a SCALE member. “Engineers have said that 90 percent of factories in Bangladesh are structurally unsound. The next disaster could happen at any moment.”
SCALE members handed out fliers and spoke to students about their cause during the die-in.
“I didn’t realize USC apparel was made like this,” said Eva Nofri, a freshman majoring in psychology who witnessed the protest. “It’s kind of horrifying and the protest showed that.”
After the protest, SCALE members went to Nikias’ office to deliver a letter with their demands, where Dept. of Public Safety officers arrived to mediate the situation.
“We don’t know why DPS was there,” Yang said. “We were there silently and peacefully to deliver a piece of paper to the office. We were not any threat to the administration.”
After more than an hour, Vice Provost of Student Affairs Ainsley Carry allowed Julia Wang, the president of SCALE, to speak to the administration. Carry said that the group could schedule a meeting for next semester to discuss the issue with him and bookstore managers.
“We are still going to push to get a meeting with Nikias, who is the sole decision-maker,” Wang said.
This is just the latest in SCALE’s recent attempts to bring attention to the plight of workers. Earlier in October, the group held a candlelight vigil for workers killed in a factory fire and on Oct. 26, the group rallied for worker’s rights.
In 2007, SCALE protesters staged in a similar sit-in at former university President Steven Sample’s office.
“We want them to implement the necessary safety measures,” Yang said. “I wanted to make sure that all Trojan members are treated fairly and working under safe conditions and protect millions of workers’ lives in Bangladesh.”