UH Sweatshop Protest, Part XVII

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If you feel like stickin’ it to The Man, the University of Houston’s Students Against Sweatshops (SAS) are holding a press conference Tuesday at noon, on the UH campus. The issue? New UH Prez Renu Khator and other university bigwigs are “actively engaging in a cover-up of sweatshop labor” to make UH-logo clothes, according to to a press release SAS issued today.

Although the University’s “Apparel Task Force” concluded that UH is in no way affiliated with any sweatshop labor, SAS questions the group’s make-up and methodology. (The task force’s “final report” is a roughly 750-word take along the lines of, “We looked and there’s no sweatshop stuff going on. Trust us.”)

The SAS had trouble meeting one-on-one with Khator, who was apparently out of the office whenever the group swung by her campus digs. But the Apparel Task Force, made up of faculty, staff and a student-government rep, took pains to note that, “We also held an open meeting where UH Students Against Sweatshops made a presentation.”

In her response to the final report, Khator stated in a July 7 press release, “I am gratified to learn that the University is taking reasonable steps to support fair labor practices. It is clear that our faculty, staff and students all support the cause for human rights. I appreciate the passion and commitment of our students in bringing this issue forward.”

One of the many sticking points, though, is the fact that SAS asked the University’s general counsel, Dona Hamilton Cornell, for copies of any correspondence she had with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott about any potential legal issues that would bar the university from joining the anti-sweatshop group called the Workers’ Rights Consortium. Cornell responded in an e-mail that her correspondence with the AG’s office is “privileged attorney-client communication.” It appears Cornell is saying Abbott is the University of Houston’s attorney. Interesting. (UH spokesman Eric Gerber refused to clear up the issue, directing calls to the AGs office, which did not respond.)

The press conference will be held in front of the MD Anderson Library on the main UH campus, 4800 Calhoun Rd.

-- Craig Malisow

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