Students stood shivering on the Diag Thursday evening, candles in hand.
The gathering was held to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the April 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh and to raise awareness about lack of workplace safety in garment factories worldwide.
Students stood in a circle in front of the Hatcher Graduate Library in a moment of silence as they remembered the 1,132 workers who lost their lives in the Rana Plaza collapse. The collapsed garment factory housed manufacturing operations for companies such as Walmart and Joe Fresh.
In response to the collapse, workers are demanding that companies take measures to ensure safe workplace conditions. One example is the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, an agreement that promises better working conditions in garment factories. It has already been signed by more than 50 international brands and retailers.
The campus chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops, North America’s largest student-run campaign organization, organized the vigil along with other student organizations, including the Bengali Student Association, Canterbury House and the Sikh Student Association.
The goal of the vigil was to empower the University to help prevent future disasters and demand that apparel brands, such as Adidas, sign the accord.
LSA senior Allysha Choudhury, a member of the Bengali Student Association, suggested that anti-sweatshop activism at the University could influence other universities to take a stand as well.
“Once the University of Michigan pushes this, other universities might do the same,” Choudhury said.
Most of the University’s apparel is licensed by Adidas, which has manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh. Most students purchase their Maize and Blue apparel without realizing where it was made.
LSA sophomore Ryne Menhennick, a USAS member, said consumers need to keep in mind that the employees who make their clothes are often suffering in harsh factory conditions.
“We wear our own clothing without thinking about who made them,” Menhennick said.