Can social justice work be ‘sweat free?’

Can social justice work be ‘sweat free?’

Adam Rice (left) is an intern for Sweat-Free Communities.  Photo by Chase Snyder.

Adam Rice (left) works with Vicki Kaplan to put up a poster in the local Sweat-Free Communities office. Photo by Chase Snyder.

For Adam Rice, doing his part to improve working conditions for under-paid laborers in sweatshops is as straightforward as crossing the street.

Rice is completing the field project required for his sociology major by interning with SweatFree Communities, an independent, non-profit organization that works to create a network of anti-sweatshop campaigns across the country. The organization’s Midwest office is located on Main St. across from Goshen College.

Vicki Kaplan, the Midwest regional organizer for SweatFree Communities, explained that the program works with city and state governments to adopt “sweatfree” purchasing policies to reroute tax dollars from subsidizing sweatshops and under-paid labor, all in an effort to support workers around the world in the garment industry.

According to Kaplan, the program acts as an umbrella organization that looks to partner with like-minded organizations that have “a moral interest in wanting to support the best interest of underpaid workers internationally.”

Rice, a junior, puts in 10-12 hours a week at the Midwestern office. Rice’s current project with SweatFree Communities involves doing Internet research and making phone calls to compile a mailing list of labor unions across the country that have the same kind of attitude as SweatFree Communities.

With SweatFree Communities acting as a facilitator for resource sharing, these grassroots organizations can work together to generate market demand for products that are made in humane conditions by workers who earn fair wages. Through the work that Rice is doing for his field project, more organizations across the United States will be invited to join the initiative.

Rice is not the first Goshen College student to work with this program. Several students representing a variety of majors have also completed internships with SweatFree Communities.

“It has been really great to have our Midwest office located in Goshen, because it allows us to partner with G.C. students,” Kaplan said. She is interested in having student interns focus on projects that interest them, such as research, writing or political advocacy.

Summer and semester internships are available for Goshen College course credit, and Kaplan encourages students from a wide variety of academic disciplines to consider joining this campaign for social justice.

Rice seconded Kaplan’s call. “I enjoy doing something that’s practical in real life to promote change,” Rice said.

For more information on the efforts of SweatFree Communities in the Midwest and beyond, visit www.sweatfree.org.

Anna Ruth
Written by Anna Ruth

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