Likins signs resolution to end sit-in
David J. Cieslak
Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA President Peter Likins signs a labor rights resolution Friday night, as Students Against Sweatshops member Laura Snow watches in the Administration Building. Likins agreed to several concessions, including the UA's withdrawal from an international monitoring organization by August 1, 2000 if demands within a code of conduct are not met.
Student protesters erupted in cheers and sighed with relief Friday night when UA President Peter Likins agreed to a labor rights resolution ending a nearly 10-day sit-in.
Students Against Sweatshops members, who camped in Likins' seventh-floor office in the University of Arizona Administration Building since April 21, sensed the end was near when the president returned for a special meeting at 10 p.m.
Cheering protesters were then invited into a conference room to watch as SAS officials and Likins signed documents designed to increase workers' rights in overseas factories that manufacture UA apparel.
"This commits me to a lot of hard work," Likins told about 55 onlookers.
Likins agreed to include four main points in the resolution - full public disclosure of factory addresses, a "living wage" for employees, unannounced independent factory monitoring and enforcement of women's rights.
The resolution also commits Likins to withdraw the UA from the Fair Labor Association - a U.S. Department of Labor group created to monitor companies that produce items overseas - by August 1, 2000 if it does not place the four points in its code of conduct.
In addition, Likins agreed to create a task force that will obtain factory locations from any companies who renew or form new licensing contracts with the UA.
SAS and Likins will choose 12 nominees for the task force, and the UA Faculty Senate will select six finalists to sit on the committee.
During the lengthy sit-in, SAS members lobbied Likins to adopt the four principles with the mandatory deadline, but the president often resisted until late in the rally.
"It takes 10 days because it's a complicated set of issues," Likins said.
The sit-in began after a march from the UA's Main Gate to the Administration Building. Dressed in a fake Wilbur Wildcat mascot suit, SAS member Avery Kolers led the group to Likins' office, where many remained until Friday night.
Many students brought sleeping bags and homework, and filled the office kitchen with a pile of food that sustained the more dedicated activists who rarely left the building.
Despite the extensive wait, SAS members and their supporters were elated at the sit-in's result.
"I was almost crying going into this," said Arne Ekstrom, an SAS member. "It's unbelievable, so thank you all."
Ekstrom, SAS member Laura Snow and Likins signed several documents during the ceremony, but not before activist M.J. Braun shouted out "Just do it," mocking the slogan of Nike Inc., one of several UA apparel producers.
But words from SAS officials often silenced the group, reminding them why they fought for an agreement.
"The reason we're in here is for the people who aren't in this room, who have been suffering too long," said James Cook, one of four central negotiators who held daily meetings with Likins.
As Likins exited the room, a banjo player led the group in songs including "Let it Shine," and the singers created their own verses that pertained to the protest.
After the session, Likins said he shares the same goals with the protesters, and was pleased that he could join them to resolve the issue.
"I learned over the days that they can be thoughtful, reasonable people," Likins said. "After all, since this has ended up amicably, maybe the lesson is that we can work things out. I do have a lot of respect for the intelligence and devotion to principle of these young men and women."
UA law professor Andrew Silverman said the protest, which lasted longer than any SAS sit-in nationwide, showed that students can pledge their efforts to an issue and are often wrongly accused of being "apathetic."
"The criticism that students get for being apathetic - it was shown here during the last 10 days that students were there like they were in the 60's," he said.
While Silverman said the resolution still lacks all of SAS' demands, he added that the group can build off the new documents.
"From here, we can make some important and significant changes in people's lives," he said.