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Activist group memorializes Bangladesh workers

11-14 - Bangladesh Memorial - Student Action with Workers hung 1,200 pieces of string in the pit to remember the 1,200 workers who have died in Bangladesh over the past year. They are campaigning for UNC to require all suppliers of university apparel to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
11-14 - Bangladesh Memorial - Student Action with Workers hung 1,200 pieces of string in the pit to remember the 1,200 workers who have died in Bangladesh over the past year. They are campaigning for UNC to require all suppliers of university apparel to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

UNC students don’t typically think of the long journey some of their apparel has made to the United States when they pull it out of the closet.

Student Action with Workers hosted the “1,200 Lives Cut Short” event in the Pit Thursday afternoon that memorialized the lives lost in sweatshops in Bangladesh in the past year.

The group is part of a national movement, United Students Against Sweatshops, which has a presence on over 150 campuses nationwide.

The memorial featured 1,200 pieces of red string of varying lengths, which represented the lives and the differing ages of the workers, tied to a line in the Pit. Testimonials from factory workers and photos of workers in Bangladesh also hung from the line.

“We want people to be aware of where their apparel comes from,” said Griffin McCarthy-Bur, co-chairman of the group.

He said the group hoped the memorial would raise awareness about unsafe practices in factories abroad.

Students were asked to sign a petition asking Chancellor Carol Folt to adopt the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh into UNC’s Code of Conduct.

Naomi Carbrey, co-chairwoman of the group, said it has already been signed by many prominent retailers — including H&M.

The University’s Licensing Labor Code Advisory Committee held its first meeting of the year Oct. 31. The committee, which is researching the accord, will advise Chancellor Folt, who will ultimately make the decision.

Shannon Brien, a member of Student Action with Workers, said this was the group’s first large public appearance to the student body this year.

“I think this is going to be a really great chance for us to share our project and campaign with the student body,” she said.

Carbrey, who visited several factories in Bangladesh, said it is important for UNC to make the move.

“The situation is very grave and we don’t want the next factory disaster to affect those making UNC apparel,” she said.

Meredith Weiss, associate vice chancellor for business services and administration and chairwoman of the Licensing Labor Code Advisory Committee, said the group is gathering information about the accord and is sending a member to a meeting held by the Collegiate Licensing Company in Atlanta later this month to learn more.

“It’s important to know that the University is committed to knowing that there are safe labor practices wherever its apparel is produced,” she said.

“We’re just getting started. We want students to know that we’re gathering information.”

Junior Persia Homesley said she was happy there were people speaking up for foreign factory workers.

She said she feels college students care more about the workers than business owners do.

“I knew this was happening, so my reaction isn’t shock, but gratitude,” Homesley said.

Junior Wilma Mallya, a member of the group, said she’s proud of the event and the work the group has been doing.

“We have to care about what is going on in the world,” she said.

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“This work is very important, and it’s the basis of a Carolina education. This is critical thinking in practice.”

university@dailytarheel.com

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