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Task Force recommends UA join WRC

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 18, 2000
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Letter to Likins doesn't discuss FLA withdrawal

In a letter to UA President Peter Likins yesterday, the University of Arizona Human and Labor Rights Task Force recommended that the University become a member of the Worker Rights Consortium.

The UA is a member of the Fair Labor Association, created by the U.S. Department of Labor, and the letter urges Likins to join the WRC, perhaps establishing dual membership.

"This seemed to me to clear the way for us to join the WRC, but I need to consult with the task force and my own team before going forward," Likins stated in an e-mail interview yesterday.

Karen Anderson, history professor and task force member, said that the task force was in agreement that the WRC was the best monitoring system.

"There was strong sentiment for it (the WRC)," Anderson said.

The task force's recommendation on the UA's membership with the FLA is expected to come in August.

For the past several months, the UA's chapter of Students Against Sweatshops has set deadlines and held protests - including a "camp out" on the Administration building's lawn earlier this month - denouncing the University's involvement in the FLA and trying to persuade Likins to join the WRC in its place.

The WRC - once dwarfed by the 134 universities listed as members of the FLA - now boasts 45 universities. It was created as an alternative system to give universities more control over factory monitoring.

Andrew Silverman, law professor and task force chair, wrote the letter outlining the reasons for the task force's recommendation.

"I had done a lot of reading about this issue," Silverman said. "I think we came to a consensus."

The letter stated that the UA should become a member of the WRC because it gives the universities more control over the monitoring process.

"We see this as an advantage because the university will gain a voice in how the WRC will ultimately operate," Silverman stated in the letter.

Silverman went on to write about the monitoring process that the WRC plans to implement.

The WRC's methods are "the 'fire alarm' method of empowering workers to report violations to a local non-governmental organization, and the 'police patrol' method of conducting unannounced spot investigations of factories most at risk," the letter stated.

Likins attempted to send a UA representative to the WRC's founding conference on April 7 at New York University but was denied.

Likins has said he would consider dual membership. The UA was a founding university member of the FLA.

"The potential of the WRC is very interesting to me, and I am eager to learn more about it," Likins stated in a March 31 press release.

Likins decided March 31 to remain a FLA member - stating that the FLA was the monitoring system that could make the UA "sweat free" - and said that sweatshop monitoring will be fully implemented by August.

The task force - created with the resolution that ended SAS's 10-day sit-in last April in the lobby of Likins' office - makes recommendations, but Likins is not required to follow them.

Still, Silverman said the opinion of the task force could affect his decisions as August approaches.

"I think he's taking this recommendation very seriously," Silverman said. "I hope he follows our recommendation, and I hope shortly we join the WRC."

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