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Archive for Thursday, April 8, 1999

KU PASSES MEASURE AGAINST SWEATSHOPS

April 8, 1999

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Supporters of a measure against "sweatshops" allegedly run by Nike and other athletic companies said a good first step was taken with student approval of a resolution.

The Kansas University Student Senate on Wednesday night unanimously approved a resolution asking administrators to adopt a code aimed at stopping "sweatshop" manufacturing of collegiate athletic apparel.

By acclamation -- or a single motion not requiring a recorded vote -- the 69-member Senate approved the resolution, which was sponsored by more than 20 student senators.

"It's a huge first step," said Kyle Browning, president of the KU/Lawrence chapter of Amnesty International.

The American Council on Education, an umbrella group for universities, recently passed a resolution asking schools to sign the code, which calls for outside monitors of manufacturing facilities.

In addition, KU's student measure calls for "the administration to strengthen the code to include the public release of factory sites and that all factory workers receive a living wage."

About 20 universities, including Florida State University, Duke University and the University of Arizona, have signed the code.

Many are in the process of adding the "living wage" requirement, Browning said.

The Kansas University Athletic Corp. has an exclusive contract with Nike, which has been accused of tolerating unfair labor practices in Asian markets.

Deidre Backs, a co-sponsor of the bill, said she hoped KU administrators would take up the resolution by the end of the semester.

"I want them to say something about it this year," she said. "Otherwise, they will wait until it blows over.

"If we don't hear something in a month, we may hold a rally and a sit-in."

David Ambler, KU's vice chancellor for student affairs, said the resolution might be addressed by Chancellor Robert Hemenway or Athletics Director Bob Frederick.

"A possible response could come from either one," he said.

However, Ambler said he wasn't sure about the timetable.

"At the other schools, it's taken a lot of student pressure" for administrators to sign on, Browning said.

"My hope is they'll look at our peer schools and approve it" at KU, he said.

"We're not just doing this to jump on the bandwagon," Backs told the Senate before the vote. "This is affecting people's lives."

-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is mdekker@ljworld.com.

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