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UA will remain in FLA

By Irene Hsiao
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 3, 2000
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WRC denies Likins' request to send UA rep to founding conference

The Worker Rights Consortium denied UA President Likins' request to send a university representative to their founding conference on Friday in New York.

Last Friday was the UA Student Against Sweatshops' deadline for Likins to read a 75-page book the group put together that included statements about Nike and human rights, independent monitoring and an FLA critique.

The University of Arizona decided to remain in the FLA, a 14-member board made up of corporate, human rights and other interest organizations, including one university representative.

Likins sent an e-mail Friday to Maria Roeper, the WRC coordinator, asking for permission to send a UA representative to observe the gathering at New York University, even though UA was not going to join the WRC.

Roeper said she did not grant permission because she had received too many requests, and because UA is not a member of the WRC.

"We have a lot of people knocking on our door and we can't accommodate," she said.

About 150 people will attend the founding conference which will include students, administrators and a six-member advisory council representing various interest groups will meet to attend speeches and discuss the factory monitoring.

They will also vote on a governing board, comprised of 12 members from the gathering. This decision-making board will select the WRC's executive director, Roeper said.

Likins' response to SAS's book included a letter to the student organization, a seven-page rebuttal to the actual book and a general statement about the organization debate.

Lydia Lester, a leader and spokeswoman for SAS, said Likins has read the materials carefully and is trying to pay attention to the organization's cause. However, he is not doing enough, she said.

"I feel that he's talking the talk, but not walking the walk," she said.

Lester, a linguistics sophomore, said the decision leaves out one group of people.

"One thing that's left out is workers' rights," she said.

Likins said he would consider dual FLA and WRC membership, but it would depend on what the WRC decides on Friday.

"If the WRC says we can't be part of both, we'll stay in the FLA," he said.

August is the deadline for the FLA to meet the four mandates decided upon at the end of SAS's sit-in last April. One mandate - the disclosure of factory locations - has been met.

"The two systems are so different in principle, it seems to be impossible to be in both," Lester said.

However, she said they could be in both organizations for a short-term.

Likins said the debate over joining either organization is making everyone lose their focus about trying to monitor the factories that produce UA apparel.

"I think we better get refocused on what the problem is," he said. "I don't think I have lost my focus."

Sam Brown, FLA executive director, said the decision to remain was important and the FLA has struck a good balance between non-governmental organization and corporations.

"The FLA is the only way to fix the problem," he said.

He said the board is now working on a protocol for the monitoring standards.

"I'd say by fall we'll be in the position of full-scale monitoring," he said.

Andrew Silverman, a member of the UA Task Force for Monitoring Labor and Human Rights and a law professor, said the group could not advise the UA to join the WRC.

"We were unable at this point to give the president a recommendation," he said. "We were not in the position yet to do so."

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