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Support UCAS, not FLA

By Avery Kolers
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 15, 1999
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To the editor,

Thank you for including the viewpoint of Students Against Sweatshops in your article yesterday about Nike and the University. The article attributes to me the view that labor codes should not have to appease corporations. Unfortunately, there was no explanation of why I might say this. I would like to provide some reasons.

First, sweatshop abuses continue. Employers assault, humiliate, and underpay workers, and needlessly endanger workers' lives. Corporations say they are stopping these abuses. Great! Let's see. We need public disclosure of factory locations now.

Corporations suggest that disclosure would take away their competitive edge. This is no reason to oppose disclosure. The law against murdering competitors also takes away a competitive edge. But this is no reason to permit murder. We must distinguish between competition and fair competition. Public disclosure promotes fair competition. The illicit practices of sweatshop corporations are anti-competitive.

The Fair Labor Association pretends to be an oversight body. Oversight bodies should never be controlled by the people they scrutinize. This is not controversial; no one should be judge in his or her own case. But corporations control the FLA, so the FLA will hide abuses, not stop them.

I therefore find it utterly bizarre that the faulty reasoning of corporations and the university is taken seriously. The case for the FLA is empty and pernicious, and elementary reflection makes that clear. It scares me that the University is either unable or unwilling to see through the FLA smokescreen.

The University Coalition Against Sweatshops, which unlike the FLA has realistic enforcement provisions, excludes corporations. This is one key reason to support UCAS. The point is to respect the rights of workers, consumers and small businesses in a way that does not infringe any right of any corporation. Effective monitoring prevents abuses, not legitimate business practices.

Finally, I should reiterate that the FLA is not a first step. The FLA is designed to preclude meaningful evolution. Any change in the charter requires a large majority vote of corporations. This biases the process in favor of a status quo that even President Likins considers intolerable.

Avery Kolers
Philosophy Grad Student