By Kristie Hamon
The Barnes and Noble at EKU Bookstore is carrying a new, sweatshop-free clothing line this fall.
School House, an ethical clothing line, was founded in 2009 by Rachel Weeks after researching socially responsible clothing in Sri Lanka.
Melissa Dohmen, School House marketing and public relations director, said ethical clothing has to do with the standards companies make their clothing by and how they treat their workers.
Dohmen said Weeks founded two living wage factories in Sri Lanka and more than tripled the salaries of workers there. Salaries in a living wage factory are determined based on the cost of living in that area.
“We don’t compromise people in the production of our product,” Dohmen said. “We pay all of our apparel workers a full living wage. We pay premiums to our suppliers to ensure that our people are being taken care of.”
Ethical clothing ideals are based around the idea of eliminating sweatshop situations and providing workers a livable wage.
“It’s about more than being green; it’s about making sure that you’re taking care of your people,” Dohmen said.
Dohmen said the company is now 100-percent made in America in North Carolina. The company makes clothing specifically for colleges and universities, and sells to 100 colleges nationwide.
Dohmen said School House supports more than 2,000 jobs in North Carolina. She said the company works with non-profit groups to define what a living wage is, which in North Carolina is minimum wage, $7.25. But Dohmen said the company is currently paying employees around $10 an hour.
School House claims its clothing line is ethical, so what does that say about all other clothing lines bought at the bookstore?
Walking around the store, names like Champion, Under Armour, Jansport, Nike and Russell Athletic fill most of the racks with Eastern apparel.
Research on these clothing lines puts the various companies’ ethics in question. A study found on the Miami University website said Jansport submits workers to unethical working situations and don’t provide them enough money for their basic needs. A study on the University of Texas at San Antonio website claims that Jansport and Champion are “notorious” for their use of sweatshop labor. Various organizations such as Global Exchange and Educating for Justice say that Nike has a long history of underpaying employees in foreign factories.
According to an article in the New York Times, in 2009, Russell Athletic lost lots of college support when the company fired 1,200 workers in Honduras for forming a union. Since then, Russell has hired back the fired workers and opened a new plant in Honduras as a unionized factory.
Under Armour has a green line that recycles plastic bottles to make clothing and follows a strict code of ethics and business conduct, according to the company’s website.
Meredith Stang, general merchandise manager of the Barnes and Noble at EKU Bookstore, said they choose the clothes brands they sell from a list of vendors a corporate office gives them.
“We have to take companies at their word,” Stang said. “That’s a choice for students to make for themselves.”