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March 28, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-03-28

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

OPINION

The£dip&g

DoNN M. FRESARD
Editor in Chief

EMILY BEAM
CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK
Editorial Page Editors

ASHLEY DINGES
Managing Editor

EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890
420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
So obviously
animal cruelty is
a common thing
in Washtenaw
County."
- Tanya Hilgendorf, executive director of the
Human Society of Huron Valley, discussing the
string of dog slayings in Superior Township, as
reported yesterday by the Ann Arbor News.

40A

COLIN DALY THE MICHIGAN DALY

0

t L.O~'w
f y ouIK(

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All
other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.

,I'

T

Paradise lost
SAM SINGER SAM'S CLUM

think the come-
dic value of the
anti-French joke
peaked sometime back
in 2003, during those
hot-blooded months
of diplomatic wran-
gling before U.S. forc-
es invaded Iraq. The
French have grown
increasingly coopera-
tive since then, and tensions have begun to
cool. Meanwhile, I've been getting worried.
It's almost April. My time at this University
is drawing to a rapid close, and the thought
of forfeiting this column space without tak-
ing a parting shot at the French was making
me uneasy. Of course, that was earlier this
month, before thousands of well-to-do French
students began tearing Paris to pieces. Their
object of contention: a law that makes it legal
to fire people.
Well, there's a little more to it, but not
much. The bill relaxes France's First Employ-
ment Contract, a provision that effectively
guarantees permanent job security for citi-
zens who work full-time. Under the proposed
changes, employers will have a two-year win-
dow in which they can fire new workers with-
out having to defend their reasoning in court.
After two years, the old rules take effect, and
French workers get to fall back on comfortable
lifetime employment contracts and oversized
pension packages.
It's a fairly moderate reform, though you
wouldn't know it from the noisy reception they

gave it in Paris. I took one look at the mayhem
on CNN and was certain the Eiffel Tower had
fallen. Cars were flipped on their sides and left
to smolder in the streets. Storefront windows
were shattered. Students rushed police barri-
cades. The signs being hoisted in the streets
seemed to suggest that a national birthright
was under assault. Students apparently feel
entitled to a steady paycheck as they do to
clean water and military defense. Nevermind
the French economy, which is literally sinking
under the weight of its unemployed; these stu-
dents would give up croissants before living
one minute in a social compact that doesn't
bring jobs through a feeding tube.
After all, that's the system that served their
parents. It's everything organized labor was
marching for in 1968, the last time demonstra-
tors took to the streets in such large numbers.
Since then, France's command economy has
expanded at a suffocating pace. The French
workforce now operates in a vacuum of compe-
tition. For those on the inside, the work weeks
are brief and the wages are healthy. Summer
vacations are often compensated and lavish
pension plans give workers freedom to retire
early. It's a structure that institutionalizes lazi-
ness. It's what Disney Land would look like if
Karl Marx were in charge. As for the involun-
tarily unemployed, that unfortunate 10 percent
residing outside the ivory walls of the worker
state? C'est la vie.
The system has survived as a tacit covenant
between the voting public and the political left:
The French workforce gets its bed of roses and
politicians keep their jobs. And despite their

better judgments - the majority of French
lawmakers recognize that excessive regulation
is drowning the economy - French lawmak-
ers continue to support costly interventions in
the labor market. In the rare occasion that Par-
liament considers peeling away employment
protections, French workers do what they do
best - they strike.
But bowing to Big Labor won't be as easy
this time. The devastating riots that engulfed
Paris's poor, largely Muslim suburbs last year
marked a sea change in French politics. Law-
makers now have an entirely new variety of
working class on their hands. Most of these
workers are of North African descent. They're
the children of the laborers France brought in
by the thousands in the 1950s to help rebuild
the country after World War II. They're young,
they're poor and, because of France's rigid
naturalization requirements, few of them
are citizens. As a result, many remain ineli-
gible for the extravagant employment benefits
France offers to full-time, naturalized workers.
They're France's real proletariat, the workers
the labor unions left behind.
That's what is so ironic about the French
brand of socialism. By denying foreign
nationals citizenship while profiting off their
labor, the French model is actually reinforc-
ing inequality. Economic playing fields aren't
exactly even back here in the states, but at least
we don't have the audacity to call ourselves
socialists.

0

Singer can be reached at
singers@umich.edu.

VIEWPOINT
Fast for Justice: A call for a SweatFree 'U'

BY ADRI MILLER
If you've passed through Angell Hall or the
Diag recently, you've probably seen a Students
Organizing for Labor and Economic Equal-
ity member chained to a sewing machine.
It's probably obvious that SOLE is protest-
ing sweatshops. What is less clear is why
sweatshops are still a critical issue on cam-
pus and why we, as University students, are
in a unique position to affect positive, lasting
change in the way our clothing is produced.
Six months ago, SOLE, in coordination
with United Students Against Sweatshops
and student activists nationwide, kicked off
the SweatFree Campus Campaign. The cam-
paign brings us one step closer toward elimi-
nating the use of sweatshop labor to produce
University apparel. SweatFree would require
that all clothing with the University logo
be made in factories that pay workers a liv-
ing wage and where workers are represented
by a legitimate, independent organization.
We understands that many may be unfamil-
iar with SweatFree, and so we have tried to
address those questions here today.
How do we know that University cloth-
ing is made in sweatshops?
We have heard it from the workers them-
selves. Twice this past year, SOLE brought
workers from Latin America, Africa and
Southeast Asia to campus to speak about their
experiences in sweatshops. They told us how
workers in their factories - predominantly
women - are subjected to unpaid overtime,
dangerous working conditions, toxic chemi-
cals, sexual abuse and rape. All this while
earning wages too low to provide for their
families and being actively persecuted for
any attempt to speak out. The University is

the number-two seller of collegiate apparel in
the country. Making our University Sweat-
Free would directly impact and improve the
lives of thousands of workers.
Why do we need a new code of con-
duct?
In the late 1990s, student activists at uni-
versities nationwide won anti-sweatshop
codes of conduct, including at the University.
While this was an important victory on paper,
in practice it has not succeeded in stemming
exploitative industry wide practices. Under
the current system, in the rare cases when
workers are able to organize and win high-
er wages and better conditions, brands just
move to another (read: cheaper) factory. The
SweatFree Campus Campaign is the result of
extensive evaluation and cooperation among
workers, human rights organizations and
industry experts. SweatFree creates a "race to
the top," in which brands seeking the privilege
of producing University clothing must respect
workers and human rights. Seven universities
- including the University of Indiana, the
University of Wisconsin and Duke University
- have already enacted SweatFree. The Uni-
versity of Michigan has not followed in the
footsteps of its more justice-oriented peers.
I know sweatshops are bad, but isn't a
job in a sweatshop better than no job at all?
It is true that factories that produce for
multinational brands tend to pay higher than
average wages. What this fact conceals is that
sweatshop wages are still not high enough to
meet workers' basic needs. Sweatshop work-
ers are predominantly women who are sup-
porting entire families, not just themselves,
on these extremely low wages. Claiming that
sweatshops are the lesser of two evils is no
excuse for exploitation, abuse, discrimination

and oppression.
So how can we make the University a
SweatFree University?
SOLE has repeatedly requested a meeting
with President Mary Sue Coleman, yet she
refuses to meet with us. Workers came from
halfway around the world to ask Coleman to
use her power and enact SweatFree, and again
she blatantly ignored them. President Coleman
and her advisors have been stalling on Sweat-
Free for over six months. SOLE is aware that
we are not the only students being shut out by
the administration. While she was president
of University of Iowa, Coleman had student
anti-sweatshop protesters dragged out of her
office and arrested by the Iowa City police.
She has continued this tradition of silencing
student voices at the University. Coleman
courts private donations and multinational
corporate sponsors while hiking tuition and
profiting off sweatshop labor. It is time for
students to take action and demand account-
ability from our administration. SOLE stands
in solidarity with the students and workers
who are fighting for justice on campus and
around the world.
On Wednesday, SOLE is asking the cam-
pus community to participate in a one-day
fast. The Fast for Justice will culminate in a
rally on the steps of the Union at 5:10 p.m.
SOLE will be on the Diag today and Wednes-
day distributing red solidarity armbands
and answering questions about SweatFree.
We demand that Coleman take seriously her
responsibility toward the workers who pro-
duce our clothing. We demand that our Uni-
versity be SweatFree.
Miller is a RC sophomore
and a member of SOLE.

0

40

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Send all letters to the editor to
tothedailyomichigandaily.com.

Men benefit widely from
preference in admissions
TO THE DAILY:
Dana Christensen's viewpoint urging
women to oppose the Michigan Civil Rights
Initiative on the grounds that affirmative
action increases women's educational oppor-
tunities (A reflection on Women's History
Month, 03/27/2006) may leave readers with

ued applicants ... the standards for admission
to today's most selective colleges are stiffer for
women than men," she wrote.
Whatever one's position on gender-based
affirmative action, failing to discuss this phe-
nomenon provides an incomplete picture.
Julia Lipman
Rackham
MSA candidate apologizes

reading their e-mail and additionally requir-
ing intervention by Information Technology
Central Services.
What I did was completely inappropriate
and damaged the good reputation of both MSA
and the student body as a whole. Additionally,
I recognize the degree to which I interfered
with University business and caused unneces-
sary work for support personnel on this cam-
pus. I am ashamed to have done this, and I
promise to never again send such an e-mail.

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Andrew Bielak, Kevin Bunkley, Gabrielle D'Angelo,
Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Jared Goldberg, Mark Kuehn,
Frank Manley, Kirsty McNamara, Suhael Momin, Rajiv Prabhakar, Katherine Seid, Gavin
Stern, Ben Taylor, Jessica Teng, Rachel Wagner, Jason Yost.

I

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