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Student activists take over Likins' office

By Michael Lafleur
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 22, 1999
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Ryan A. Mihalyi
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Students Against Sweatshops' demonstrators yesterday march on the UA Mall to the Administration Building. Activists chanted slogans and performed a skit during the protest.

About 30 student activists and other supporters last night remained camped out in UA President Peter Likins' office, demanding his endorsement on their workers' rights resolution.

The activists have said they will not vacate the Administration Building's seventh floor until Likins concedes.

"He (Likins) doesn't know yet that he is going to be signing the resolution, but he is going to," said James Cook, a Students Against Sweatshops member. "We'll be here until he realizes."

A University of Arizona Police officer and three UA officials pledged to stay in the office throughout the night.

"This is a building that is not built for residents," said Veda Hunn, assistant dean of students. "If an emergency situation should occur, we want to be able to respond immediately and responsibly."

Molly Snow, an SAS spokeswoman, said the group is prepared to camp out in Likins' office for as long as it takes.

"I think the only thing we're short of for a couple weeks (stay) is food," said Snow, a speech and hearing sciences and psychology junior. "We're definitely set for three days or so. It should be fun, we have games, homework."

The UA's chapter of Students Against Sweatshops is calling on Likins to sign a list of conditions affecting companies that manufacture university apparel.

SAS is demanding that all UA licensees publicly disclose their factory addresses and pledge to pay employees a "living wage."

The students also want the apparel companies to promise unannounced independent monitoring in factories and greater protection of women's rights.

About 67 UA student activists and supporters yesterday began their sit-in demonstration after they marched from Main Gate to the Administration Building.

SAS members were joined by supporters banging drums, clanging cymbals, ringing bells, beating tambourines and chanting as they made their way to the center of campus.

The activists stopped for a moment on the building's steps to perform a skit ridiculing the UA's involvement with the Fair Labor Association, a factory monitoring organization.


Ryan A. Mihalyi
Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA President Peter Likins speaks with protesters from Students Against Sweatshops in his office lobby. Activists spoke with Likins about labor issues yesterday and many planned to stay throughout the night in the Administration Building.

Protesters chanted "Peter Likins is a poseur - stop delaying full disclosure," until about 12:30 p.m. when they proceeded in a long line up the stairs to the president's seventh floor office.

As he addressed the protesters, Likins said he will spend as much time as possible talking with the group, but is unwilling to immediately sign the SAS resolution because he disagrees with certain aspects of the document.

"I don't normally respond to a request by simply signing my name," he said. "I have probably intimated that there are aspects of that resolution that I find much more problematic than others."

While he refused to sign the resolution, Likins sat down on the floor with the demonstrators, taking part in a discussion which lasted about an hour-and-a-half.

The conversation covered a variety of topics, ranging from the feasibility of a living-wage requirement for factory employees to the university's responsibility for protecting human rights.

"We are all striving for an understanding that companies we do business with will disclose their factory locations," Likins said. "We're all striving for eliminating worker's rights abuses - what is different is how we get there."

Likins also lauded the activists for their efforts.

"Peter Likins wouldn't be focusing on sweatshop issues had you not brought it forcibly to my attention," he said.

The UA has accepted a code of conduct - to which licensees are held - that addresses workers' salaries, provides a degree of factory location disclosure and includes protection for women. The university has also adopted the Fair Labor Association as the watchdog for the conduct code.

But SAS members are dissatisfied with both, especially the FLA, which they say is too pro-business. The group's resolution includes deadlines for abandoning both the code and the FLA if the students' demands are not met.

Likins, who has been supportive of the FLA, said the time limit makes him uncomfortable.

"I must say that the Fair Labor Association seems to me to be coming along very, very well," he said. "I am anxious to work within the context of the FLA."

The group accepted Likins' proposal to draft an alternative resolution, which he agreed to present at about 7:30 this morning.

SAS member Tim Bartley, however, said the group would not negotiate with Likins and would not accept any "substantive changes" to its demands.

"If there are things that he objects to that don't change the substance, then I think we have to decide what it means to make those changes," said Bartley, a sociology graduate student.

"I think if he says he doesn't want a deadline, that would constitute a real substantive difference between our resolution and his ideas," he added.

The UA SAS is part of an organization present on campuses throughout America, United Students Against Sweatshops. USAS wants to ensure university logos are not attached to sweatshop garments.

This desire has resulted in similar sit-ins at schools such as Duke University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Georgetown University and the University of Michigan. Student activists at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill yesterday stormed their administrator's office as well.

"This is not just happening here, this is a national movement," said Cook, a sociology graduate student.