In one of the largest anti-sweatshop demonstrations to date, about 300 to 400 Yale University students rallied yesterday to demand that their administration withdraw from the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and join the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC).
Both the FLA and the WRC are organizations designed to monitor overseas sweatshops, but activists said clothing manufacturers have too great an influence on the FLA
"We think the FLA is a sham," said Yale senior Amanda E. Bell, one of the organizers of yesterday's rally. "We think it's a public relations ploy by corporations. We would like to see Yale take a moral stand [by withdrawing]."
Harvard Attorney Allan A. Ryan Jr., the administrator most responsible for sweatshop policy, said he supported the Yale students' right to rally, but that the action would not affect Harvard's support of the FLA.
"I'm glad to see the first amendment exercised in New Haven," he said. "This clearly is a matter of concern to students, administrators, universities, everyone. If they can get students together for a rally, then more power to them."
Yale students protested for an hour yesterday in front of Woodbridge Hall, a major administrative building. Protesters chanted, waved signs, shook soda-can noisemakers and listened to speeches given by undergraduates, union representatives and faculty members, including noted professor of political science Rogers M. Smith.
More than 300 students signed tiny blue paper T-shirts condemning the FLA.
"The crowd was very excited and would just start spontaneously cheering," said Bell, who addressed the rally.
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