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Likins unsure of WRC membership

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 27, 2000
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SAS members 'excited' about task force recommendation

Six months of lobbying, protest, letter exchanges and deadlines between UA President Peter Likins and Students Against Sweatshops members have culminated in more discussions.

"I don't think he (Likins) is settled on what his decisions will be," said Sharon Kha, a UA spokeswoman.

However, Likins has said the University of Arizona, a founding university member of the Fair Labor Association, is now inquiring about also joining the Worker Rights Consortium, an alternative factory monitoring system.

In a meeting with advisers yesterday, Likins decided to draft a letter to WRC Coordinator Maria Roeper, inquiring about what a membership in the WRC might entail for the UA.

Likins said once the letter has been written and reviewed by his advisers, it "could (be sent) conceivably next week."

Kha will leave today for Chicago to attend a WRC meeting.

No non-members were allowed to attend the WRC's founding conference in New York on April 7, but "this meeting, they allowed observers to come," Kha said.

This move comes following the UA Human and Labor Rights Task Force's recommendation to Likins that the university seek a dual membership with both the FLA - created by the U.S. Department of Labor - and the WRC.

Lydia Lester, SAS spokeswoman and linguistics sophomore, wrote a letter of her own to Likins after the recommendation came down, expressing SAS members' excitement toward the task force's decision.

"We are sure that you (Likins) will take this recommendation seriously, since the purpose of the task force is to advise you on issues relating to labor and human rights," Lester's letter stated.

While the United Students Against Sweatshops mandates universities to make a full withdrawal from the FLA, the WRC - a creation of USAS to replace the FLA - has no such mandate for its members.

"We don't require the members to be autonomous (from the FLA)," said Charlie Eaton, WRC staff worker.

The WRC now has 47 members after the California university system, Trinity College, Central Michigan University, the University of Connecticut and the University of Oregon joined.

Tulane University was a member of the WRC and the FLA until members of USAS held a sit-in in Tulane's administrative office.

The administration negotiated removing Tulane from the FLA on the condition that they also withdraw from the WRC and reconsider the issue in the fall, Eaton said.

Since January, there have been several sit-ins and demonstrations at universities across the country by SAS and other student based labor rights organizations to force their respective schools to withdraw from the FLA.

Student organizations have protested the FLA's rule that allows corporations - such as Nike, Eddie Bauer Inc. and Kathie Lee Gifford - to have a strong presence on the board.

When Sam Brown, FLA executive director, was named in January, he said the organization would have independent monitoring taking place in six months.

August 1 is the UA deadline - set by the resolution signed by Likins ending SAS's 10-day sit-in in April 1999 - for the FLA to have established an independent monitoring system.

Neither the FLA nor the WRC have monitored a single factory thus far.

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