This catalog is what we have created as we begin to pitch these companies to UCLA retail stores to offer sustainable and worker-ethical options from our company partners that offer a higher standard of environmental justice, worker democracy, and worker health & safety. While this catalog is aimed at retail stores, we hopefully will be developing a version directed at student campus-based organizations very soon.

The catalog begins by explaining who we are and why we do what we do: for the justice of workers around the world, and the planet we wish to preserve. We delve into our organizing partners, which are the USAC Facilities Commission, the Labor 411 Foundation, and Ethix Merch. We detail our progress to date: all the surveys, panels, discussions, and guides we have released over the last year! We then go over our social media presence, and how we would seek to mobilize campus to actually purchase merchandise once it was in the store.

We give some love to our manufacturers, which are Unionwear, a USA-made, unionized garment factory in Newark, New Jersey specializing in small-batch, made-to-order products, Equal Exchange, a global network of employee-owned and small-scale growers, roasters, and sellers of coffee, chocolate, and tea (we aren’t only for ethical garment production!), and Collection, a cluster of democratically-run and employee-owned workplaces in North Carolina making merch from cotton to printed t-shirt. We detail prices, quantities, and order details, and then we get to the good part: the ask for retail stores to make a commitment to sell these products and market effectively, once we are able to secure a license! We have every step of the process down, from marketing to distribution, and want to make UCLA a world-wide brand that can also be recognized for a greater commitment to improving the lives of workers around the world.

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We wanted to take an introductory look into the idea of degrowth, specifically in the garment industry, based on an article from Remake Our World by Sumedha Vemulakonda entitled, “Why We Should Be Talking About Degrowth in Fashion.”

According to Business Insider, clothing production has roughly doubled in the last 20 years. In visual terms, the World Economic Forum reports that fast fashion's production cycle is "the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes burned or dumped in a landfill every second. Due to changes in the production cycles, influenced by fast fashion but implemented across the industry, clothes are produced faster and in greater quantity than ever before. This is only possible through labor exploitation and massive post-production and textile waste.

Overproduction is the result of both short-term trends and increasingly-subcontracted labor. A 2011 study form the International Journal of e-Education, e-Business, e-Management, and e-Learning found: typical production process for an average company from design to delivery is 6 months, but for Zara it's more like 5 weeks. This overproduction is just exploitation being pushed to a natural conclusion for companies striving for profit. The main effects of this are:

  1. Brands increasingly use short-term contracts with subcontracted manufacturers and wash their hands of responsibility for labor abuses.

  2. Retailers frequently grossly overestimate demand for flexibility and profit and most companies burn and shred any unsold, "dead" inventory.

  3. Waste at any stage of the process is often dumped into areas surrounding production sites, polluting waterways.

Degrowth [is] a planned reduction of product volume and slowed consumption of clothing. Most can agree degrowth on the consumer end, in the form of second-hand consumption and purchasing fewer, well-made clothes, is a no-brainer. What should happen on the production end is more complex. Degrowth, if implemented correctly, could curb carbon emissions and dead inventory, as well as facilitate longer-term contracts with workers. But how to go about it? The article strongly advocates for AI tech to predict consumer demand, and thereby abolish overproduction. Do you agree?

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There's a lot of debate as to what makes a worker cooperative and what doesn't. Cooperatives more broadly are actually more common than you may think, with credit unions and housing co-ops being clear examples. A worker cooperative specifically has some differing definitions country to country. Richard Wolff thinks they can serve as a transition to socialism, bringing democracy to the workplace:

I think one of the best deep dives into what they really represent politically and economically was this video essay by Unlearning Economics, entitled "Worker Democracy",

In the video, Unlearning Economics explains that worker cooperatives do not have a set structure, with variance between levels of worker ownership of the firm and decision-making power. Some may be entirely owned & operated by workers, others may elect boards, and others still may engage in profit-sharing.

The idea of worker cooperatives has been present in literature since at least the 1800s. A lot of theoretical benefits have been borne out in selected studies:

  • less inequality than conventional firms

  • workers have increased trust in the coop

  • workers can put more effort into the coop

  • higher rates of survival during downturns than conventional firms

While these important studies can show the viability of cooperative models of organization and enterprise, it's important to emphasize that they are also inherently important because they bring justice and democracy to a workplace.

In that spirit, it's important to research what are the policies, histories, and conditions which make each cooperative different. Unlearning Economics took away the following four policies as leading to greater worker democracy. Do you agree?

  1. Expansion of funding and law changes to encourage the formation of worker cooperatives

  2. Expansion of community-led efforts which include and encourage worker cooperatives through funding, education, and awareness

  3. Expansion of shares options in conventional firms and participatory voting

  4. Majority worker representation on corporate boards within conventional firms

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