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UA will not leave FLA, Likins says

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 17, 2000
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UA President Peter Likins yesterday denied SAS's request that the university immediately withdraw from the Fair Labor Association.

Likins was traveling to New York yesterday and could not be reached for comment, but announced his decision to keep the University of Arizona a member of the FLA by letter to the Students Against Sweatshops.

"I believe your request that we withdraw from FLA is entirely inconsistent with the commitments I made to you last April, and with your acceptance of those commitments," Likins stated in his letter.

This announcement comes after the beginning of a sit-in at the University of Michigan yesterday and a successful United Students Against Sweatshops sit-in at the University of Pennsylvania.

Penn is the first university to withdraw from the FLA, though only for an interim review period, said Sam Brown Jr., FLA executive director.

As anti-FLA actions are beginning to pop up on campuses across the nation, Brown said he feels these sit-ins aren't helping the real problem.

"We're fighting a war of propaganda," Brown said. "I share the outrage of these students, and the FLA is about ending sweatshops."

In addition to leaving the FLA, SAS asked that the UA shift its support to the Worker Rights Consortium. Likins stated in the letter that he will not grant that request either.

"I am not prepared to accept the substitution of WRC for FLA into the language of those commitments," Likins stated.

While SAS members were hopeful, Likins' response does not come as a shock.

"I'm not really surprised that he tried to hide behind the commitments," said Lydia Lester, linguistics sophomore and SAS spokeswoman. "I think President Likins has strong ties with corporate interests and with the FLA."

SAS is planning to stage a pro-WRC rally today at 12:30 p.m. in front of the Administration building, Lester said.

Lester said she is not sure what course of action SAS members will take to further emphasize their commitment to the WRC.

"After the rally, we'll have to decide what to do now," Lester said. "We're going to continue to put pressure on the university."

The WRC now has five university members with Oberlin College, in Oberlin, Ohio, joining on Tuesday. The other universities are Bard College in Hudson, N.Y., Brown University in Providence, R.I., Loyola University in New Orleans and Haverford College in Haverford, Pa.

On April 7 at New York University, the WRC will hold a founding conference and elect a governing board. Invitation letters will be sent out in the near future, said WRC coordinator Maria Roeper.

The UA's membership in the FLA may prevent UA SAS members from attending.

"It's not 100 percent clear to me we'd be allowed if we're not members (of the WRC)," said Avery Kolers, philosophy graduate student and SAS spokesman.

Roeper said she thinks that the WRC's draw is more than just being a different organization than the FLA.

"It's not just about the WRC's name, it's what we represent," Roeper said. "We really support workers."

Through all the arguments surrounding this issue, Brown said he thinks some of it is frivolous.

"We're largely in agreement and it's a waste to be struggling over this," Brown said. "There's a lot of misinformation of the FLA."

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