The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Do I Need (Yet Another) Conference Tote Bag? Um… No.

August 21, 2009

And now I can say that and support a good cause.

This email came to me, through a colleague, from the American Political Science Association today. Members among the Duck readership, please send a brief email to the organization at

Dear APSA member,

Do you need the annual conference bag? The APSA Labor Project is concerned about the labor conditions of those who make the bags. We are also aware there are environmental and sustainability considerations.

APSA does not contract or pay for the bags, one of the annual conference sponsors does; decisions about bag manufacturing are not under our control. We have worked closely with APSA leadership in D.C. to urge the bag sponsor to contract bags made in factories with verifiable labor conditions.

Last year the conference bags were made at a unionized, U.S. factory. This year the bags will be made at several undisclosed locations overseas, which means that labor conditions at production facilities cannot be independently verified. It would be extremely difficult to set up an agreement about where the bags are made, particularly since the bag sponsor may change from year to year.

On another front, while APSA’s sponsors have been moving toward environmentally-friendly products and we know that the bags are reusable for years, we wonder if indeed you need another bag? Doing away with the bags altogether, we argue, would be more sustainable in the end.

We would appreciate hearing from you about this issue to help us represent APSA members.

Please send your comments to

The APSA Labor Project

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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.