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SAS letter asks Likins to leave FLA

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 10, 2000
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Students Against Sweatshops members submitted a letter to UA President Peter Likins yesterday requesting the university's immediate withdrawal from the Fair Labor Association.

In addition to leaving the FLA, the letter - which gives a Feb. 16 deadline for a response from Likins - asks that the UA become the fifth member of the Workers' Rights Consortium.

Under the resolution signed by Likins that ended SAS's 10-day sit-in last April, the University of Arizona would not have to leave the FLA until Feb. 1, 2001. The UA would only have to withdraw at that time if the FLA does not meet the four mandates set out by the resolution.

"The resolution allows the university to be in the FLA, but it doesn't require it," said Lydia Lester, linguistics sophomore and SAS spokeswoman. "We're unsatisfied with how slow the FLA is going."`SAS spokeswoman Rachel Wilson said the deadline isn't meant to threaten Likins.

"Last year, long before the sit in, he (Likins) would sort of ignore us," said Wilson, a psychology graduate student. "The deadline is just so he gets back to us."

The resolution's mandates are full public disclosure of factory addresses - met by Nike's disclosure in October - that make UA apparel, the establishment of a living wage, the implementation of an unannounced independent monitoring system and the enforcing of women's rights.

The FLA, a part of the U.S. Department of Labor, has 131 university members - including the UA as one of the founding members - along with several corporations, including Nike and Kathie Lee Gifford.

Corporate involvement in the FLA continues to be the point of divergence between supporters of the FLA and those who back the WRC.

The WRC - a creation of the United Students Against Sweatshops - has no corporate involvement. Neither the FLA or the WRC has a monitoring system in place yet.

"Looking at the alternatives, we feel really strongly the WRC is the best monitoring system out there," Lester said.

The possible measures to be taken if Likins does not respond by next Wednesday have not been finalized, Lester said.

Likins said yesterday he had not yet read the letter and therefore had no comment. He added that he didn't foresee any conflict between himself and SAS."I just have to go along with the process and meet on their schedule," Likins said.

This move comes in a wave of pro-WRC activity. Members of Students Against Sweatshops at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia have entered the fourth day of their sit-in attempting to achieve the same goal.

"We all know who has the power," said Anna Roberts, a Penn SAS member participating in the sit-in. "We gave them a deadline of Feb. 1, and now things have come to a headway."

The Penn SAS sit-in is taking place in the office of Penn President Judith Rodin, and the demonstrators refuse to leave until their mandates are met. "There's a lot of urgency in this issue, and we're going to stay until they take some action on this," Roberts said.

Ryan Gabrielson can be reached at city@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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