SAW response to “new” Labor Code Program

May 14, 2008

Dear Chancellor Moeser:

CC: UNC President Erskine B. Bowles, UNC-CH Dean H. Holden Thorp, UNC-CH Provost Bernadette Gray-Little, UNC-CH Vice-Chancellor Margaret Jablonski, UNC-CH Licensing Labor Code Advisory Committee to the Chancellor (LLCAC), UNC-CH Employee Forum Chair Ernie Patterson

It has recently come to our attention that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been involved in discussions with other universities and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) about a new Labor Code Program that is currently being developed by the CLC. We have been made aware of a number of documents regarding this new program, including a document entitled “Key Elements of a Labor Code Program,” dated February 21, 2008. It appears that this program is designed as a new approach for universities who wish to improve labor code compliance by their licensees.

First, we are outraged that students were not consulted during any part of the process in which the program was developed or in which the university decided to participate in discussions about the program. When students proposed that the university participate in another labor rights initiative, the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP), we were told that the university had to consult with all stakeholders before coming to any kind of conclusion. Yet students were never consulted in the decision to participate in the CLC’s new program.

After reviewing the CLC’s document, we see nothing in this program that would lead to any real improvement in labor rights compliance by university licensees, which students have been continuously advocating for. It has been widely acknowledged throughout the labor movement, including the WRC and FLA, that monitoring alone is insufficient to address the root causes of sweatshop labor and that the only solution to the problem is to change the way that the brands do business.

Yet the CLC’s program ignores the fundamental problems created by the supply chains of the global apparel companies, which make it impossible for the current system to lead to any real improvements for workers who produce our university apparel. The CLC’s new program does nothing to address the downward price pressure that is imposed on factories, forcing them to cut labor costs in order to remain competitive, and provides no incentives for factories to actually comply with codes of conduct. This approach also ignores the brands’ practice of constantly shifting orders between factories, creating a situation in which factories never know where their next order will be coming from, making long-term improvements virtually impossible.

Unfortunately, it appears that this new approach shares the same faulty logic as the new initiatives developed by the FLA, including FLA 3.0 and the Enhanced Licensee Program, because it assumes that by merely strengthening code of conduct language, universities can ensure improved labor rights conditions at collegiate factories. But more monitoring and code of conduct rhetoric will only delay the implementation of a real solution, the DSP, which is the only way to ensure that licensees make long term orders and pay factories a fair price.

It is not surprising to us that a program designed by the Collegiate Licensing Company fails to provide any concrete way to improve workers’ lives. The CLC is a for-profit licensing agency with no experience or training in the field of worker rights. It is ridiculous to think that such an agency could develop a program that would meaningfully change the system of sweatshop labor that is the status quo in the garment industry.

We condemn the university for participating in a program that lacks any real enforcement mechanism and for engaging in secretive discussions about this new initiative. The decision to participate in the CLC’s new program must be subject to the same public scrutiny that the university has imposed on the DSP process. The university must also recognize that this new program should in no way be considered a substitute for the DSP, which is the only real way to ensure true respect for the rights of workers who produce our university clothing.

It is extraordinarily disappointing to us that our University, the self-described “University of the people,” would prefer to arrest students rather than meaningfully enforce our labor codes of conduct and has also refused to include them in any kind of transparent discussion about the enforcement of those labor codes.

For the sake of those labor codes of conduct and justice for all workers in our supply chain, we occupied the administration building for sixteen days, sacrificing the full benefits of our Carolina education in order to uphold the spirit of the mission of our University and its ideals. Though five of us are charged with “failure to disperse” from the office of the Chancellor of a public institution that our tuition funds, we see it is far more criminal that our University administration refuses to adopt the DSP and refuses to include students, faculty, and staff in the discussions addressing the sweatshop conditions in the factories that manufacture UNC licensed apparel; conditions that violate domestic and international law.

Sincerely,

Student Action with Workers/ Students against Sweatshops (SAW)

Enclosures: KEY ELEMENTS OF A LABOR CODE PROGRAM (February 21, 2008 Draft)

KEY ELEMENTS OF A LABOR CODE PROGRAM

(February 21, 2008 Draft)

The labor code discussion group / task force has identified the need to establish a process for creating a comprehensive, credible, sustainable labor code model that takes advantage of the collective clout of the collegiate institutions. A basic tenet of the present initiative is that the collegiate institutions dictate their expectations in labor code education and compliance, and utilize organizations such as the FLA and the WRC as resources to accomplish labor code goals set by the collegiate institutions. It is the institutions which best understand the unique motivations and pressures in the collegiate environment. The FLA and the WRC bring valuable skills, expertise and resources, and should each play a key role in the implementation of the type of program that includes the key elements of a labor code program that are outlined and briefly discussed below.

I. Assessment of licensee capacity for compliance.

    1. Update licensee application materials to better educate applicants at the outset on university criteria/expectations for licensure. Provide specific information on new requirements.
    2. Add pre-screening labor code questionnaire as part of application process.
    3. Determine process for scoring or otherwise evaluating applicants based on questionnaire responses.
    4. Include responses to questionnaire with new licensee requests and determine how to evaluate questionnaire responses. Each institution will ultimately determine whether to accept new licensee requests for licensure based a wide range of factors. The challenge will be to create an objective measure of competence or likelihood that the program the potential licensee has in place will succeed, given what we know about collegiate supply chains.
    5. Develop response to applicants that do not meet standards; address areas in which applicants must improve before institutions will license.
    6. Consider similar process for licensee renewal.
    7. Consider how FLA Enhanced Licensee Program may be instructive as to licensee assessment and whether the FLA or WRC might assist in this process. While the current FLA program is limited only to Category C licensees, it would be the group’s intent that the methodology might extend across the board to other licensees, as well.
    8. Ultimately, strengthen the base of licensees by selecting those willing and capable of being partners for labor code compliance.

II. Licensee education.

    1. Education of licensees as to importance of CSR is an essential component of this effort.
    2. CLC and universities have each hosted and/or helped promote FLA licensee training sessions.
    3. Determine the availability of any additional training resources, e.g., The Cahn Group

III. Licensor education.

    As not all institutions are at the learning curve of this august group, licensor trainings are also part of the process and FLA has begun to prepare for those. Skills will include understanding how to interpret monitoring reports, identifying areas of risk, and what is necessary for effective remediation.

IV. Retailer Education

    Bookstores and other interested retailers should receive education as to labor code compliance. Retailers can be a big part of the solution; alternatively, retailers can create problems if they are not cooperative in ways consistent with university labor codes and licensee obligations.

V. Monitoring and Remediation Protocals.

    1. This task force has acknowledged the importance of creating clear, consistent and enforceable labor code requirements that will be the focus of monitoring and enforcement, recognizing that in some instances fragmentation in labor code standards can dilute the effectiveness of enforcement and compliance.
    2. Determine how to maximize effectiveness of existing monitoring programs and advance uniformity to this process.
    3. Examine pros and cons of FLA monitoring and remediation.
    4. Examine pros and cons of WRC monitoring and remediation.
    5. Determine if there is a need for additional assessment and ongoing monitoring that goes beyond current FLA requirements.

VI. Reporting Systems.

    1. Better reporting mechanisms are essential in order for schools to be in a position to evaluate the labor code compliance status on an ongoing basis.
    2. Need to be in a position to track and monitor licensees’ progress in achieving good standing.
    3. Need for communication with universities regarding current status and improvement over time for each licensee.
    4. The FLA produces an annual report. Determine whether this type of report can be done on an ongoing basis so that status of a particular licensee can be searched.
    5. Universities have a responsibility here to deal assertively with non-compliant licensees.
    6. Licensees have an obligation to know whether their factories are, not just where their sourcing agents are.

VII. Centralized Online Disclosure Database

    1. It is essential to establish a centralized, online factory site disclosure database that can be utilized by all licensees, all universities (whether with CLC, LRG, or independent), licensing representatives (CLC, LRG, SMA), the FLA and the WRC. The FLA is currently engaged in a process to create a robust and accessible database. In addition, the FFC may provide applicable resources in this process. Following are just some of the reasons that this project is important
    2. Elimination of paperwork associated with disclosure and confirmation of disclosure at renewal.
    3. Ease administrative burden for licensees that currently have to provide the same information to CLC, LRG and independent universities, all in their own required format.
    4. Establish consistency and eliminate duplication regarding the information gathered and how it is gathered.
    5. Could also be used to create list of “compliance-ready” factories.

VIII. Administrative Responsibilities.

    As this document is completed and activities undertaken, we need to keep in mind that each function will entail significant resources and administrative responsibilities, which will be addressed in this document as we move ahead. For example, cost/benefits of various compliance initiatives must be considered in all instances.

A few other considerations:

    The next big issue may be Environmental Sustainability. The group may eventually consider these issues.
    Lastly, the school’s own institutional commitment to the principles of fair labor and sustainability is relevant. For example, a school that delays its art approvals is not setting the licensee up for sound scheduling at the factory level. And schools must insist on full engagement and cooperation from licensees. Clearly, for this program to succeed there are responsibilities at every level in the chain.
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