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 Students encourage accountability; garment workers' rights

Collectively, Santa Clara University (SCU) students and their college peers across the nation prove that they can keep garment industry corporations accountable. A student-produced national campaign placed pressure on universities to terminate their contracts with Adidas until the company paid 2,800 Indonesian workers their owed severance. Seventeen universities ultimately temporarily ended their contracts with Adidas, including SCU.

The Labor Action Committee (LAC), an empowerment group within the Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP), strives to be a supportive voice for workers locally and globally. The student group also serves as representatives for United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), a national labor rights organization with over 150 university chapters.

LAC decided to bring the Adidas campaign to SCU at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year because PT Kizone, the Indonesian factory that shut down in 2011 and laid off workers, was a college apparel supplier thus, directly related to the student body. 

“We thought the most important [campaign we could work on at the time] was Adidas as it brought a global issue right to Santa Clara and our university could have a direct impact on lives of garment workers,” said former Program Coordinator, Sarah Montgomery ’13, “[the layoff with no severance] was devastating for workers who suddenly couldn't pay rent, buy food, or afford books for their children for school.”

Claudia Fernandez ‘14, 2013-14 Program Coordinator of LAC, explains that through the USAS network, college students are able to gather together and create national campaigns against corporations who are not maintaining accountability in their labor practices. These large-scope campaigns, developed by both students and affected workers, provide an educational opportunity to raise awareness, exercise leadership skills, and self-reflection.

Fernandez insists that “the first key goal is awareness--providing eye-opening experiences to learn about the different issues.” After awareness will be advocacy--physical or vocal presence--support on campaigns, or even voting with your dollar. Workers’ rights and working conditions are “issues related to everyday life,” states Fernandez when sharing why students may volunteer with LAC. Whichever the socio-economic class, people are impacted by industries--food, clothing, technology--and they have consumer power to influence change.

Not long after SCU terminated their contract with Adidas and students pressured nearby Target (on Coleman Ave.) to join the action, Adidas announced that it would be paying the workers. As Montgomery explains, “This was a huge win . . . for the [labor rights] movement because of Adidas’ influence on the rest of the industry as one of the most well-known garment companies.”

To learn more about LAC actions, email

By Amelia Evans ‘13, Sustainability Intern, and Cara K. Uy

Tags: Program Highlights



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