Wellesley Students Will Simulate Sweatshop Conditions
To Raise Labor Rights Issues

For immediate release:
February 7, 2005
Felice Espiritu

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- The Wellesley Association of Labor Rights Activists (WALRA) of Wellesley College will hold its third annual Sweatshop Simulation Wednesday, Feb. 16, from 7 am to 7 pm in Billings Hall, room 100, of the Schneider Student Center. This event is free and open to the public.

The Sweatshop Simulation tries to replicate many of the conditions of a sweatshop to raise awareness about labor rights issues. Eight to ten student volunteers each perform a repetitive task that is one step in assembling a fabric bag for a 12-hour work day under fluorescent lighting, loud and constant factory noises, and heat. They are allowed a few short bathroom breaks and a lunch break, and the workers will actually receive wages in cash comparable to those of an overseas sweatshop worker. The product, bags stamped with the provocative message, “This Bag Was Made In A Sweatshop,” will be sold during and after the simulation for $5.

"We do not expect that we will know what it is really like to work in a sweatshop by participating in a simulation for one day," said organizer Felice Espiritu, a junior at Wellesley College. "Rather, the sweatshop simulation is a way to raise awareness about sweatshops through powerful, concrete images. We want people to start thinking about labor issues, to which we are all connected to in some way. We are simply putting the indisputable facts out there, and people can form their own opinions based on what they see.”

Former WALRA president Liz Mandeville, who graduated last spring, explained at last year's event that despite the simulation, college students cannot really imagine what life is like in a real sweatshop:

"I…do not pretend to think that this simulation is going to help me, or any of the workers understand what it means to work in a sweatshop day after day, to earn a ridiculously inadequate wage, to be ignored, abused, mistreated, or denied basic rights,” she said. “There's no way that I can understand that experience. I’ll always have enormous privileges in my life. But, as they say, with great privilege comes great responsibility and so it is our responsibility as privileged people to bring attention to human rights violations worldwide."

WALRA will also provide suggestions for how people can channel their concern into action through an information table with facts and a petition. This year Northeastern University has joined the sweatshop simulation movement and will hold its event on the same day from 9 am-5 pm at the Curry Student Center. Contact Elliott McGann at 617-359 7240 or mcgann.e@neu.edu with questions.

For questions or comments about the Sweatshop Simulation or the organization WALRA, please call Felice Espiritu at 781-283-1277, e-mail walramail@wellesley.edu, or visit the Web site www.wellesley.edu/Activities/homepage/walra/Index/.