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Last month, Verité Senior Director Jon Pitoniak spoke to a group of students at Pope Francis High School in Chicopee, Massachusetts about labor rights. This presentation was an opportunity to engage not only Verité’s local community but also a younger generation about the universal issue of labor rights and modern day slavery. Jon presented to Ms. Leslie Perreault’s Holocaust and Human Rights class, an elective that Ms. Perreault has been teaching for many years at the former Cathedral High School. Mr. Pitoniak is a former student of Ms. Perreault and a graduate of the Cathedral High School, which merged with Holyoke Catholic High School to form Pope Francis High School in 2016.

During the semester the students in Ms. Perreault’s Holocaust and Human Rights class explore human rights through the lens of world history and current events. Mr. Pitoniak spoke about the most vulnerable workers at the bottom of global supply chains in Latin America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. He described kids the same age as the students in the class working in garment factories or picking through piles of trash for 12 hours a day who are compelled by abject poverty and the need to support their families. He also discussed an issue Verité has extensively researched; the abuse faced by migrant workers working in electronics supply chain factories in places like Taiwan and Malaysia, who make the devices we all use every day.

The students asked insightful questions on how companies can better protect workers, and what drives thelabor and human rights abuses which Verité seeks to eliminate. An important connection between Verité’s work and the school’s community is Pope Francis’ commitment to fight modern-day slavery and bring dignity and respect to all workers.

Verité believes its mission to ensure safe, fair, and legal working conditions is meaningful both locally and globally, including to members of the community of all ages. By showing pictures of the deplorable conditions under which so many work, the workers’ daily reality was brought into the classroom. Jon felt that the students understood much more and that they have a role, now and in the future, as ethical consumers. Verité hopes to continue this outreach next year, and in the meantime, invites exploration of the many resources on our website to help illuminate these abuses.

For more information please contact Jon Pitoniak.