US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Fight for garment worker justice moves to TN Catholic High School

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

I was pleased to read about efforts at a Nashville Catholic high school to strike a blow for foreign garment workers, though one that's still largely symbolic. Athletes at Father Ryan High School are sewing Jerusalem crosses over the logos of the manufacturers of their uniforms: "We have the privilege of being able to stand up for people who can't stand up for themselves," said senior Emily Kerinuk, according to USA Today. "Being brandless makes Father Ryan our brand. It makes justice our brand."

The Father Ryan effort began with a presentation by the non-profit Educating for Justice, which has pushed this issue since 1997, focusing especially on Nike's overseas factories; the issue gained momentum with the Bangladeshi factory fires that killed scores of workers and drew attention to working conditions in that country's garment factories. Father Ryan knows this is only a small step: "This is a very small piece of moral real estate that we're planting our flag in. We understand that," said Father Ryan athletic director Pat Lawson. 

The next step, of course, is to start sourcing uniforms from more ethical suppliers--which may be hard to come by. But it should also include getting information about Educating for Justice out to Father Ryan's boosters, where so much of the money for private high school athletics comes--another way of getting the word out about the working conditions that clothe us both on the field and off.