activist notes

Equinomics: August and September notes and updates by activistnotes
October 5, 2008, 7:46 pm
Filed under: Equinomics, Student Activism | Tags: , , ,



Equinomics is an Ontario-based student-labour coalition for building solidarity and facilitating communication between groups advocating alternatives for a more just and sustainable economic order.


Equinomics organizes in an anti-oppression framework. Our core program is called The Bookstore Plan. The Plan’s objective is to have university bookstores source apparel manufactured by workers whose right to unionize is respected and who are paid a living wage, as defined by the Worker Rights Consortium.


Equinomics is organizing an Activist School for February 27-March 1, 2009. The Activist School will include training on anti-oppression, The Bookstore Plan, direct action, and plenty of time for sharing experiences and movement building.


The founding members of Equinomics are: Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, Canadian Labour Congress, Sierra Youth Coalition-Ontario, and former organizers of Canadian Student Fair Trade Network.


For more information on how you can get involved, email one of the catalysts of Equinomics: Patrick Clark patrickclark [at ]; Ian Hussey ihussey [at]



Notes from Equinomics session facilitated at the CFS-Ontario Activist Assembly on September 27 at the University of Toronto:


We want to thank the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario for organizing a rad space for organizers to get together for a couple days.


Pat Clark and Ian Hussey facilitated a one hour session on Equinomics. About 40 people participated; organizing on the following Ontario university campuses was discussed: University of Guelph, Carleton University, University of Ottawa, York University, Waterloo University, Ryerson University, University of Toronto, Trent University, University of Western Ontario


Equinomics’ prelim objectives for the year were discussed: The Bookstore Plan, Activist School, worker tour


Participants suggested we move the first Equinomics coordinating committee meeting from Nov 1 to after Nov 5 because of the Drop Fees campaign. Nov 8 was a suggested new date. The meeting will be likely held at Ryerson University.


Notes from Equinomics planning meeting held at the USW Hall in downtown Toronto on August 21-22:


This meeting wraps up the initial organizational visioning process of Equinomics.


Equinomics gladly recognizes the support and solidarity shown by the CLC and CFS-O in making it possible for Theresa Haas of the Worker Rights Consortium to participate in this planning meeting. We’d also like to thank the USW for providing us with the great meeting space.


Meeting Participants: Aaron (SYC-O), James (USAS member), Hilary (Criteria Fair Trade), Shelley (CFS-O), Pat (Equinomics), Ian (Equinomics), Erin (CLC), Theresa (WRC), John (CAW), Hildah (CFS-O), Andrew (CFS-O and ONDY), Sharon (Just Shirts)


Action plan:


-Pat to email Raj of WPIRG

Erin to email YUM, CUPE university workers, Ram, ONDY

Erin to update lists of unions and coops

-Ian to follow up by email with Tyler Downey of SEIU

-James to email Ali about getting Ryerson space for Nov. 8 (date to be confirmed)

-James to email Centre for Social Justice

-James to email USAS CC about partnership with the Equinomics coalition



-Pat drafting pamphlet to send to the rest of us by the end of August.



-Come to a consensus on the pamphlet wording

-CLC to translate and print pamphlet

-dates and location for Activist School (when is Reading Week?) should be on pamphlet

-CFS-Ontario Activist Assembly on Sept 26-27: Pat and Ian to facilitate a session

-continue to grow Coordinating Committee, try to pull in new members at Activist Assembly

-Sept-Oct, Pat to look into rough budget of El Salvadorian worker tour, and to talk to USAS about planning and facilitating the tour (CISPES and SalvAide might also be of use)



-SYC-National meeting, Oct 2-5, Sherbrooke QC (Erin and Pat participating)

-Canadian Coalition for Fair Trade, Oct 3-5, Ottawa (Ian participating)

-CLC Gapzilla (Laurentian, Guelph, York, maybe 5 other campuses in ON)

-CLC meeting in late Oct, could do a presentation


Nov. 8 (date to be confirmed)

-Founding Equinomics Coordinating Committee meeting (Ryerson?)

-Get student organizers from all Canadian affiliates of WRC to Nov 1 founding meeting (Trent, U of T, York, Ryerson, Guelph, McMaster and Queens)

-Discuss how Coordinating Committee will function, fiscal agency, action plan for coming months, and how to roll out the USAS Bookstore Plan as our initial core programming



-Fiscal agency? (connect with Sage Centre and CCIC trade policy committee)

-Set up communications

-SYC is holding their ON provincial meeting at Lakehead at the end of January

Erin out of province first two weeks of Feb.



-Activist School may be held in early March or late Feb, need to check Reading Week dates (may be we can set up a system where we facilitate a session each fall at the CFS-O Activist Assembly and at the CLC fall meeting, and we run our Activist School each spring)

-At the Activist School folks might be interested in starting to draft a policy platform for ON schools on fair trade, no sweat and local goods

-Other possible sessions of interest include one on the York sit-in of spring 08 and of course the Bookstore Plan (would be ideal if Victoria and/or Terrance could facilitate the former)

Ontario-wide tour with a worker from El Salvador union garment factory (Pat taking the lead)




Over 50% of the CLC and of the CFS memberships are located in Ontario.


CFS bulk purchasing program:

-Realize the economies of scale

-ethically produced and sustainable products

-bulk purchasing of ethically produced and sustainable orientation materials (t-shirts, tote bags, laundry bags, water bottles, clipboards, pens, lanyards)

-Just Shirts: Toronto-based company, facilitates purchase and distribution of textile products, works exclusively with worker-owned Single Mothers Co-operative of El Salvador (worker-owned, health and pension benefits, travel allowance, and improved work conditions with better pay)

-There is a video on You Tube about the Single Mothers Coop in El Salvador

-The first order was for 20,000 shirts, the last order was for 80,000; this order provided six months of work for the Single Mothers Coop, and allowed the workers to move to a safer and larger work location in their community


What is SYC?
– national organization by youth and for youth, founded in 1996 as the youth arm of the Sierra Club of Canada-
– mission to empower youth to create more just and sustainable communities using a solutions-based approach
– Youth Action Gatherings in the Summer and Winter across the country: activist camps for high school aged youth
– Sustainable High Schools: students do an audit of sustainability in their school, including attention to investments and purchasing
– bike trips: most recently our second bike trip in the Tar Sands, joining in solidarity with community groups and environmental non-governmental organizations to demand a moratorium on any further developments without meaningful community involvement in planning, that environmental justice be enshrined in the Canadian constitution, and more-
Sustainable Campuses
– our biggest project, about to celebrate its tenth year- active on around 70 campuses across the country supporting students who are leading initiatives to make their campus communities more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable- conducting GHG inventories, comprehensive sustainability audits (including attention to investments and purchasing), developing sustainable business models in print shops and student-run cafés, and more…
SYC’s history with trade justice
– our roots are in the anti-globalization movement
– Seattle 1999
– Deconstructing Dinner Caravan in 2003, bike trip to Mexico City raising awareness about food politics and agri-business
– since we have moved our focus to Sustainable Campuses, we support students and student unions on an ad hoc basis who are developing ethical purchasing policies for their unions or businesses- there has been no concerted campaign, and we’ve been working more with United Student Against Sweatshops recently to combine our efforts-
– here to find out how we can support each others’ work and become more effective at making campuses central agents in promoting trade justice


Worker Rights Consortium:

-WRC is an independent labour rights monitor. WRC doesn’t certify factories; it does factory assessments, research, writes up reports with the current factory conditions and recommendations for improvements

-WRC does worker rights and code of conduct trainings

-WRC has 182 affiliates in the US and Canada

-WRC receives funding from universities and foundations

-For universities to affiliate with WRC: 1) Code of Conduct for garments 2) Factory disclosure 3) Annual fee to WRC

-WRC doesn’t tell university’s which factories and brands to source from

-Corporations provide disclosure to WRC

-WRC has a detailed Living Wage Report on their website which includes living wage estimates for Indonesia and El Salvador. You can access the report at

-Nike, Gildan, Russell etc don’t directly produce apparel, they outsource production, global supply chains; they share factories

-to oversimplify, a supply chain is: university and/or university bookstore à brand à factory

-labour is most flexible cost for factories

-factories cut labour costs to keep their prices low and stay competitive

-companies retaliate against union drives

-cut and run is a major problem in trying to unionize factories in the majority world (cut and run is when a company removes business from a facility after labour rights abuses have been uncovered there. Typically a company will have benefited from the abuses for quite some time, and instead of dealing with the problem they run from it, sending the message that to speak out is to lose employment.)

-universities own their name logos/marks/brands (e.g. York University), corporations need permission to make university branded garments

-Nike factory location disclosure on their website

-1-3% of retail price of garment is labour (Here’s a link to the WRC’s study on the effect of substantial labor cost increases on apparel retail prices:

-3000-4000 factories produce for universities, university apparel 5-10% of each factory, which means university codes of conduct do not hold much sway with management.

-Designated Supplier Program is looking to consolidate industry for university sourcing from the current large group of factories to a smaller group whose primary partners would be universities, so universities will have more of a say in the factory conditions

-DSP is about fair prices and higher standards (living wage, respect for unions)

-45 universities in US signed up to DSP

-DSP more relevant for US schools, seems the Bookstore Plan is more appropriate for Canadian schools


Bookstore Plan:

-Purchase from a company that is willing to meet higher standards at one or more factories

-Purchase will be done through the bookstore

-Similar to the consumer-driven model for coffee

-Knight’s Apparel is participating in the Bookstore Plan

-The Plan will use an El Salvador factory, 250 workers, workers’ right to unionize will be respected and workers will be paid a living wage (more than 2.5x the prevailing wage)

-Living wage calculated by WRC for use in the project, Knight agreed to this condition

-Bookstore’s voluntarily buy certain percentage of garments from participating factories (e.g. the El Salvador shop initially, until program is expanded)

-Goal: First products on shelves in spring of 2009

-We can launch the Bookstore Plan in Ontario at our spring Activist School and its connected province-wide worker tour


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