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Nike expands Code of Conduct

By Irene Hsiao
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 5, 1998
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Nike announced Tuesday that it has modified its Code of Conduct to include an independent monitoring clause - a move supported by President Clinton.

As part of Clinton's two-year-old Apparel Industry Partnership, clothing and footwear companies and human rights, labor and religious groups have agreed to "create a new non-profit association to oversee monitoring of the code and company compliance." Other program participants include Reebok, L. L. Bean and Liz Claiborne.

"They have finally agreed upon something everyone can rally behind to ensure workers being protected," Nike spokesman Vada Manager said.

The University of Arizona's $7 million contract with Nike, signed in August, calls for a "mutually agreed upon" monitor, which would be used if the UA were to hear of labor abuses overseas.

Students Against Sweatshops, a human rights activist group, criticized the UA's contract for its lack of an enforcement method.

The Apparel Industry Partnership will conduct announced and surprise checks of factories, hold confidential employee interviews and do independent audits of companies' records.

Arne Ekstrom, president of the UA's Students Against Sweatshops chapter, said although the agreement is still weak, the modifications are a step in the right direction.

"Personally, I think the independent monitoring is not well-ironed out," said Ekstrom, a neuroscience graduate student. "There needs to be improvement on the issue of living wages, organized unions and how frequently they (the factories) are checked."

Nike's modified code does not contain specific information on the number of times factories will be inspected. Manager said the group will inspect "a percentage" of factories, but would not disclose how many.

"Companies like ours will submit location of factories. We will pick a percentage of factories to begin work along side the non-governmental organizations on the ground," Manager said. "It'll ensure companies will be living to the Code of Conduct and working standards."

Members of the partnership will select a separate group to monitor the factories.

"They will produce reports together following the Code of Conduct," Manager said. The reports will be released annually.

The group and auditing firms are then responsible for evaluating wages - making sure laborers are paid for overtime work, Manager said.

Universities across the nation have been working to produce a Code of Conduct in association with the Collegiate Licensing Co., which is comprised of 14 universities.

Mike Low, director of the Collegiate Licensing Co. and UA's trademark licensing, said yesterday that he had not read the document and would not elaborate on its impact on the collegiate Code of Conduct.

"I hope it is an excellent remediation plan," Low said.

UA President Peter Likins and attorney Mike Proctor did not return phone calls yesterday. University spokeswoman Sharon Kha said she had no knowledge of the partnership.

Irene Hsiao can be reached via e-mail at Irene.Hsiao@wildcat.arizona.edu.