SLAC protest

Members of the Student Labor Action Coalition stripped down Monday in Library Mall in protest of UW-Madison's contract with JanSport. 

Grey Satterfield

The Student Labor Action Coalition bared it all during a nude protest Monday afternoon on Library Mall to collect signatures for a petition encouraging Chancellor Rebecca Blank to cut licensing ties to the VF Corporation.

The VF Corporation, parent company of JanSport, has refused to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, an agreement to protect Bangladeshi garment laborers. SLAC has held multiple protests this year requesting Blank to force the parent company to sign the accord, but she has declined to do so.

Blank explained in a February letter to SLAC members that she based this decision on the fact that although the VF Corporation does produce in Bangladesh, JanSport does not. Blank stressed this commitment to “hearing updates and information about the progress or lack thereof in these agreements” in the letter.

Freshman Melanie McCormick said she found the protest to be effective and informative. Many other students walking to and from class were drawn to the protest.

“Definitely the display was eye-catching. I wanted to know why they were mostly naked,” sophomore Matthew Norman said.

Not only were students impressed by the protest, but former Director of the Institute of Education at University College London Geoff Whitty signed the petition as well.

“I think it’s really good that people are standing up and protesting because what’s going on is quite disgusting,“ Whitty said. “Americans are getting cheap clothing, and English people are too. I wish the protesters luck.”

The protest drew in members outside of SLAC to undress and stand up for the laborers in Bangladesh, including Associated Students of Madison Nominations Board Chair Megan Phillips.

Phillips said ASM just passed a resolution asking Chancellor Blank to cut the contract for JanSport, as the group felt it did not comply with the shared governance procedure.

Blank said she was unaware of the protest taking place and when asked about her thoughts on the event she said, “It’s a nice spring day.” At press time, Blank released no further statement on Monday’s protest.

SLAC members said they plan to continue petitioning throughout this week.

Miller Jozwiak contributed to this report.