Archive for Thursday, June 22, 2000

Anti-sweatshop universities to demand factory locations

June 22, 2000

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About 100 colleges, including Kansas University, belonging to an anti-sweatshop coalition will soon require manufacturers to disclose the locations of the factories where they make school-logo merchandise such as caps and sweatshirts.

The coalition, the Fair Labor Assn., was created with prompting from the Clinton administration to address alleged abuses in the garment industry. FLA members include manufacturers and human rights groups, as well as 136 colleges and universities and a prep school, Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.

"Whether it will make a lot of real world difference remains to be seen. But making the information publicly available is a good thing. It does help create a broader culture of transparency."

- Robert Durkee, Princeton vice president for public affairs, on the Fair Labor Assn.'s demand for the locations of sweatshops making university-related items

Already, more than 40 schools in the FLA demand factory addresses from companies licensed to make school-logo items.

On Tuesday, the FLA's university advisory panel met in Washington and voted unanimously to adopt the disclosure policy across the board.

Sweatshops have been the target of a growing student protests, and administrators credited the students with bringing the issue to light.

Few of the 11 companies in the FLA make collegiate goods. Nike, a member of the coalition, said about 1 percent of its $9 billion business is licensed, collegiate clothes. And Nike already gives factory addresses on its Web site, www.nikebiz.com.

Nike spokesman Vada Manager called Tuesday's action "a further progressive step for anyone concerned about eliminating sweatshops."

"We have nothing to hide," Manager said.

Since last year, Princeton University has obtained factory addresses from the 150-plus companies making goods emblazoned with the Princeton Tiger and other insignia.

Those who failed to comply lost Princeton's business, said Robert Durkee, Princeton vice president for public affairs.

Factory addresses are kept in a looseleaf binder for anyone to see.

"Whether it will make a lot of real world difference remains to be seen," Durkee said. "But making the information publicly available is a good thing. It does help create a broader culture of transparency."

A few of the same schools also belong to a rival group, the Worker Rights Consortium. It has 56 member campuses. It excludes corporate members because the group feels companies cannot monitor themselves or their subcontractors, said Maria Roeper, consortium coordinator.

She said that merely disclosing factory sites is not enough.

"It's important to know what the conditions are," Roeper said. "The public is not going to know if the companies are improving. They'll know if it's improving if they see what's going on inside of those factories."




On the 'Net: Fair Labor Assn.: www.fairlabor.org and Worker Rights Consortium: www. workersrights.org

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