Computers made in sweatshops end up in our stores, schools, colleges, universities, communities, workplaces and homes. Workers that made them likely spent excessively long hours in dangerous factories. Some are at risk of developing cancer from toxic chemical exposure, which also pollutes the environment. Many sweatshop workers experience violence and are at risk of modern slavery.
Sweatshop Free is part of a movement of people across the world, who are coming together to win workers’ rights for sweatshop labourers. Our campaign brings together students and workers in a coalition capable of challenging the root causes of unacceptable working conditions.
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What’s this got to do with students, colleges and universities?
We all use and depend on products made in sweatshops. Every year our universities and colleges spend over £10 billion on products that students use every day. Much of this money goes to companies with long records of human rights abuses. In terms of the electronics industry, each university generally spends between £3 million and £12 million on computers and other hardware every year.
One in five computers in Europe is bought by the public sector. In 2007 that amounted to €94 billion, a number which has only increased since.
How do we make a difference?
When colleges, universities and other public institutions come together, they can start making important requests from market leaders, including Apple, HP, Dell, Samsung and others.
They can ask:
- where factories in their supply chains are. Transparency is a crucial first step to finding out about working conditions.
- what policies the companies have to protect workers.
- what reparations they offer when they find abuses have occurred.
- for workers to participate in factory monitoring and problem-solving.
In 2013, a coalition of workers’ rights organisations in countries producing electronics and European purchasers launched Electronics Watch. This became the first worker led organisation supporting demands for democratic unions, better pay and improved factory conditions in the electronics industry.
Electronics Watch members are public buyers based in Europe. They do not want our money to be spent on products made in horrible conditions. So, they are banding together, through Electronics Watch and demanding that workers in the electronics supply chain:
- are working in decent conditions
- can access justice and reparation if they experience abuse
- can undertake monitoring of factory conditions and make anonymous complaints
Electronics Watch members are coming together to say that they don’t want to buy products that were made under modern slavery, with forced labour, or simply in degrading working conditions.
Electronics Watch directly supports worker led monitoring and accountability through informal workers groups, civil society organisations and independent trade unions where workers in sweatshops are based, from Mexico to South Korea and from the Philippines to China.
The primary goal of the Sweatshop Free campaign is to get our universities and colleges to join Electronics Watch and take their responsibility as major purchasers of electronics seriously!