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UA student activists holding campus anti-sweatshop rally

By Michael Lafleur
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 21, 1999
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UA student activists will hold a campus rally today in hopes of reaching an agreement with administrators about the most effective way to keep the university logo off sweatshop garments.

The rally, expected to draw about 100 UA students and faculty, will begin at 11:45 this morning at the university's Main Gate - at North Park Avenue and East University Boulevard - and reach the Administration Building by 12:30 p.m.

Citing growing support for the University of Arizona's Student Against Sweatshops chapter, SAS spokesman Avery Kolers said he expects UA President Peter Likins to sign a list of the group's demands today.

"First of all, we have greatly broadened our support base on campus," Kolers said. "We are no longer a group of extremists."

But Likins said it would be "out of character" for him to endorse the SAS resolution without first examining it and consulting with his staff.

"I can't imagine myself doing that (signing during the demonstration)," he said.

Likins said he has a prior engagement, but plans to make an appearance at about 1 p.m. When he arrives, Kolers said Likins may be greeted by imitation UA mascots, William and Wilhelmina Wildcat.

"I've had my fill of somber protest marches," Kolers said.

SAS members plan to present Likins with a document calling for public address disclosure for all factories that manufacture UA merchandise.

The student activists also want a promise that university licensees will pay workers a "living wage," implement unannounced, independent monitoring and protect women's rights.

Today's rally will also address concerns about the University of Arizona's involvement with the Fair Labor Association, a private nonprofit corporation set up to function as an independent monitoring organization.

SAS' resolution demands that Likins pull out of the FLA if the organization fails to comply with the four conditions by August 1999.

Kolers, a philosophy graduate student, said his group has collected more than 1,000 signatures on campus petitions opposing UA participation in the FLA. The student activists say the FLA fails to adequately protect workers.

Likins said it "seems likely" that the UA will join 55 other FLA institutions to adopt the organization as their independent monitor.

"We all want to eliminate sweatshops...it's just a question of how different ones among us think we can most expeditiously solve the problem," he said. "They (student activists) don't have to agree with me and I don't have to agree with them."

Likins committed the UA to the FLA on March 1, two days before student activists gathered outside the Administration Building to push for greater protection of apparel workers.

If Likins decides to sign the resolution, the UA will become the first institution in America to place a deadline on FLA reform, Kolers said.

"We'd be out ahead of everybody," he said, adding that while the FLA has promised "broad changes," it has not set a deadline.

Mike Low, UA director of trademarks and licensing, said the group's time limit is too constraining.

"To arbitrarily set August as an ultimatum, I think that's very unrealistic," said Low, the UA's representative to the FLA. "I would say the FLA is a concept that the university has adopted and agreed to participate in, but the mechanics need to be worked out. We haven't even met yet - it hasn't even started yet."

The SAS resolution echoes the same demands for the Collegiate Licensing Company's code of conduct, which the UA endorsed as its standards for licensees in January.

The resolution implements a February 2000 deadline for including the four human-rights demands in the CLC code.

The CLC provides licensing resources for 160 U.S. universities. About one-third have endorsed its code of conduct, Low said.

The Fair Labor Association will enforce the CLC code for the UA, Low said.

The demonstration, which is billed as a "festive march," is designed to bring attention to concerns about the FLA and CLC and will not be a solemn event, Kolers said.

"This isn't anti-UA, this isn't anti-athletics," he said. "Because we care about the UA, we don't want it to be involved in human rights abuses."