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updated: 9/3/2011 7:29 AM

District 300 students protest Sears

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  • Senior Jenny Wolan, 17, of Algonquin talks with Nina Massion, 16, left, and Katie McDonnell, 17, center, of the Youth Labor Committee in a classroom at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville about unfair trade practices. They have been circulating a petition and have already gotten thousands of signatures.

       Senior Jenny Wolan, 17, of Algonquin talks with Nina Massion, 16, left, and Katie McDonnell, 17, center, of the Youth Labor Committee in a classroom at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville about unfair trade practices. They have been circulating a petition and have already gotten thousands of signatures.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Senior Alexander Blyth, 17, of Streamwood listens to junior Raquel Wynn, 16, of East Dundee on how being in the Youth Labor Committee at Dundee-Crown High School has informed her about unfair trade practices.

       Senior Alexander Blyth, 17, of Streamwood listens to junior Raquel Wynn, 16, of East Dundee on how being in the Youth Labor Committee at Dundee-Crown High School has informed her about unfair trade practices.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 

It's not just leaders in Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300 that are dissatisfied with Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings Co.

A group of high school students is demanding the company sever ties with an apparel manufacturer in Jordan, where managers have been accused of sexual assault and other abuses.

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Members of the Dundee-Crown High School Youth Labor Committee have started a petition through the website, change.org, demanding the company pull orders with Classic Fashion Apparel Industry and investigate the working conditions in the factory. The group also is requesting a meeting with company executives.

"We want to help people who don't have a voice," said 16-year-old junior Nina Massion. "It comes back to myself. What if I was one of the girls in the factory? I would want someone to stand up for me."

The 30 members have passed out fliers in front of local Sears stores and are planning a trip to Chicago on Monday to protest.

"We want to work with them," said Jenny Wolan, a 17-year-old senior. "We should care about their social compliance because they're in our backyard."

So far, the group has collected 367 signatures since the petition was launched a week ago. Meanwhile, a larger campaign started by the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (formerly the National Labor Council) targeting the same factory, as well as retailers including Target, Walmart and Macy's, has amassed more than 143,000 signatures.

"Our goal is 25,000 signatures and it would be great if we could get it," said Bruce Taylor, a social studies teacher and adviser to the group. "But we look at it as a success because the base petition has over 140,000 signatures."

Bridget Jacobsen, a 16-year-old junior, said the group is not trying to put the company out of business but does want to create awareness.

"If we get enough signatures, it means more people will be aware of it," Jacobsen said. "Sears will understand that so many people have listened and that people care about the situation and maybe they will be prepared to make changes."

In an emailed statement, Kimberly Freely, spokeswoman for Sears Holdings Corp., said the company requires all vendors -- domestic and foreign -- to satisfy its global compliance program.

"Due to the criminal nature of the (Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights) allegations against the Classic Fashions factory, Sears Holdings is monitoring the ongoing legal investigation being conducted by the officials of the Jordanian government," the statement said. "Once these legal proceedings conclude, we will evaluate the findings and decide on appropriate action."

District 300 officials earlier this week expressed displeasure with the company, which is attempting to extend a tax incentive that would withhold property taxes from District 300 for another 20 years. The district estimates the deal has cost the district about $14 million a year for the last two decades.

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