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Faculty Senate approves labor rights committee

By Tate Williams
Arizona Daily Wildcat
May 4, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

"We all felt that in order to achieve that goal, there ought to be some kind of monitoring process. We will. ask of the Senate that they take those steps." Peter Likins UA president

During its last meeting of the academic year, the UA Faculty Senate yesterday unanimously backed the anti-sweatshop cause by accepting a proposal for a committee devoted to monitoring labor rights issues.

University of Arizona President Peter Likins and representatives from Students Against Sweatshops included the formation of an ad hoc task force in a resolution signed late Friday night after a 225-hour sit-in.

The task force would observe the implementation of SAS' four accepted demands in facilities manufacturing UA merchandise - full disclosure of factory addresses, a "living wage" for employees, independent monitoring of factories and greater protection of women's rights.

"We all felt that in order to achieve that goal, there ought to be some kind of monitoring process," Likins said, referring to the task force. "We will. ask of the Senate that they take those steps."

During the nearly 10-day sit-in at the president's office last week, Likins and student activists agreed that the Faculty Senate is the best body to supervise a labor rights committee.

Sen. Andrew Silverman, a law professor who participated in the negotiations, said the group is the only group that represents faculty, students and administrators in one official forum.

SAS representative Avery Kolers approved the Senate as the forum of choice because it "represents the entire university."

Likins commended Silverman's participation in the sit-in and recommended that the Senate appoint him as chair of the task force.

"He's been very helpful in trying to find ways that we can come together," Likins said.

Before senators voted on the committee, Likins briefed them on the previous week, offering high praise for Silverman and the other protesters.

"I'm very proud of the way we came together," he said. "I do not feel coerced - I feel persuaded."

Likins added that he has never witnessed a protest operate as well as the SAS demonstration.

Silverman also expressed admiration for the students and Likins, and said the students were able to negotiate well without his interference.

"As faculty members, particularly, we should be very proud," he said.

Silverman also praised Likins for his patience in allowing the students to continue the protest.

But Sen. Theodore Laetsch, a mathematics associate professor, questioned how a student group gains the authority to enter such a discussion.

Likins said any group has a right to sit in his office, and then he can decide how to deal with them.

Sen. Marlys Witte, a surgery professor, applauded the students' actions for bringing an important issue to the faculty's attention.

"I am stunned," she said. "This is just breathtaking."

The formation of the task force differs from the typical procedure because SAS and Likins will make 12 member nominations each, of which the Senate will eliminate half.

The normal selection process takes nominations from the Faculty Senate Committee on Committees. The presiding officer then chooses the members.