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Human rights talk draws large crowd

February 2, 2001

Jim Keady’s philosophy is if you can’t beat them, join them - or at least check out what the opposition is doing.

That’s exactly what the former St. John’s University soccer coach did after being forced to resign for refusing to wear Nike equipment provided to the school.

ASMSU Programming Broad sponsored Keady and fellow human rights activist Leslie Kretzu to come to MSU on Wednesday to speak to a group of about 200 students at Wells Hall.

“It went really well - all the seats were full and people were standing,” said Shaun Godwin, director of Great Issues, a division of the programming board. “It was a great opportunity to get people to hear the issue about sweatshops.”

Keady and Kretzu offered to work six months in a Nike shoe factory in Southeast Asia to investigate the actual working conditions.

When Nike did not allow this, they planned the Olympic Living Wage Project and headed to Indonesia last August to live on the wages - about $1.25 a day - and in the conditions of Nike’s factory workers.

“For people already involved with SEJ, it will be a reaffirmation of what we are doing and open their eyes to the whole issue,” said Adam Szlachetka, a political economy senior and member of Students for Economic Justice. “It makes more sense when you see a presentation like this.”

SEJ is a student-led movement against unfair labor conditions and university involvement with companies that use sweatshops.

“The most exciting thing about it is that Jim Keady and Leslie Kretzu are both normal people and did not start out as activists,” Szlachetka said. “He appeals to ‘normal people’s especially because he was a frat brother and soccer coach.”

Godwin, an anthropology junior, said programming board began planning the event last November.

“Someone gave me the information and I thought it was an amazing story,” Godwin said. “You never hear of athletes standing up and not being walking billboards for athletic companies.”

The issue of sweatshops was one Godwin hoped would stir up conversation from the audience.

“I just wanted to put on an exciting program that would raise a controversial issue,” he said. “That is what Great Issues is about - to create an opportunity for discussion and for people to learn from it.”

History senior Michael Krueger said the event confirmed for him why he is active in the anti-sweatshop movement.

“The way they put the presentation together was really inspirational and moving,” he said. “I was impressed with the way people (in the audience) responded.”

The seriousness of the working conditions did not surprise SEJ member Erin Earhart, an interdisciplinary humanities senior.

“They brought up a lot of points that brought back reasons why I am involved with this cause,” she said. “People got to learn what they weren’t aware of and it gave a more human aspect to the faces behind their clothing.”

Earhart said she was pleased with the variety of people in attendance.

“There were a lot of people not involved with this cause before that were there,” she said. “They seemed to show more interest in what is going on.”

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