Here is the official press release from the new organization, Musicians Against Sweatshops.
Music, Fashion and Progressive Politics Mix in Ambitious Attempt to Rock the
Garment Industry by New Organization, Musicians Against Sweatshops
Boston, MA (10/21/03)- Musicians Against Sweatshops (MASS) is calling on socially conscious musicians to take a stand against the exploitation of garment workers. Launched this summer at the massive Glastonbury festival in the UK by folk rock legend Billy Bragg, Ethical Threads UK and No Sweat Apparel, MASS is taking aim at the multi billion dollar music merchandising business. Their new recruitment website, NoSweatShop.org rolled out this week.
"Its time for activist musicians to step up and put things right with their own merchandising," said Bragg, "We cannot make the case for a better world while tacitly supporting exploitation."
Bragg has been joined by bands such as Chumbawumba and Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders. Many more major acts have expressed interest and are expected to sign up during the fall recruitment drive, according to national coordinator, Lynne Lyman. “But we’re just as interested in lining up scores of indie bands” said Lyman. “We want to get to the next generation of major acts before they get locked into merchandising contracts with sweat shoppers.”
MASS isn’t planning a benefit to raise funds and awareness. Musicians who sign up commit to sourcing their merchandise from union shops or worker-owned cooperatives. The organization is also launching a virtual mall for the handful of companies and designers that are providing a union alternative. The mall rolls out in late November, just in time for holiday shopping.
“We’re very hopeful that MASS can help sustain this fledgling industry,” said No Sweat Apparel founder Adam Neiman. “There are a lot of people that don’t want to buy from sweatshops but have no idea where to find an alternative.”
The musicians will notify their fans by email of the mall’s existence and encourage them to shop there this holiday season. Free (and legal) downloads of artists’ songs are expected to draw traffic too.
“This is a really important next stage in the struggle,” said Ben McKean, a leader at United Students Against Sweat Shops. “When the garment trade discovers that this is what the youth want that’s when they will produce it.” USAS has endorsed the project and is putting its national network of campus organizations behind it.
MASS is finding help from all sorts of musical genres, from gospel folk rockers to riot grrl bands. They are recruiting regional representatives in all major markets in the US, UK, and Canada to spread the word about the initiative. Lyman anticipates a string of local benefits coupled with fashion shows in the Spring. “That should be a fun way to get a lot of people involved, but right now MASS is pretty focused on launching the virtual mall for holiday 2003.” Love music and hate sweatshops? Then check out Musicians Against Sweatshops at www.NoSweatShop.org.
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