In his March 29 editorial observer ?Sweating ?No-Sweat,?? Thomas Paris describes UR anti-sweatshop activism as imperialistic in its driving belief that the workers who make our clothes should earn a living wage.

He argues that these jobs are a blessing for many people in developing nations, and that we should not impose American wage expectations onto economies so drastically different from our own.

It?s true that at its worst, American human rights activism is nothing more than a masked form of imperialism. Words such as ?development,? ?democracy? and even the term ?human rights? are fundamentally Western notions of progress.

I spent last semester in southern Mexico, where I witnessed a few Mexican grassroots activists tell some particularly aggressive western do-gooders to stay the hell out their country.

Our ideas about social and economic justice are not applicable everywhere, and sometimes we fail in properly discerning which values belong at home and which are acceptable to promote elsewhere.

Paris is wrong to apply this critique to the UR No-Sweat campaign. This nationwide campaign developed as a response to multinational corporations who had already thoughtlessly and greedily wreaked havoc on the economies of many developing countries.

The anti-sweatshop campaign seeks only to clean up the most hideous aspects of the mess. It strikes me as ironic to accuse this campaign?s work of economic imperialism when for more than 500 years, western economies have been raiding the resources of these very same nations as if we were starving and they were our pantries.

Furthermore, I disagree with Paris? belief that the wages that sweatshop jobs provide are so comparatively good that we should disregard all wage statistics as simply emotional ploys by activists.

I believe had Paris researched this issue more thoroughly, he would have found that the wages that anti-sweatshop activists are working to implement are only high enough to pay for food and shelter. The numbers on the posters you see around campus are not exaggerated and should not be disregarded because ?those economies are different.?

In fact, many sweatshop workers struggle every day to pay for even the cheapest of food. Even though in some countries they make a little more than some of the most degrading jobs, let us still ask ? ?How do we rationalize the wage difference between the multi-millionaire CEOs at the top of the corporation and the workers producing the goods?? Corporations can pay more, and they should.

I appreciate Paris? critique, but find his comments to be poorly researched and somewhat incoherent. Instead of bashing activism that at times students might find annoying in its persistence, I urge him to reconsider the issue seriously, thoughtfully and responsibly.

? Leah Siepel

Class of 2001

Co-president, Amnesty International



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