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Wednesday October 18, 2000

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UA to remain in FLA indefinitely, Likins' letter states

By Shana Heiser

Arizona Daily Wildcat

SAS members continue to oppose university involvement in FLA

In a letter sent to Students Against Sweatshops members last week, UA President Peter Likins said the UA will not withdraw from the Fair Labor Association.

The decision follows a recommendation from the UA Human and Labor Rights Task Force to withdraw from the organization. The task force said the FLA hadn't met requirements outlined in a spring 1999 resolution.

"I certainly hope this will not be the final answer of all time," said Rachel Wilson, SAS spokeswoman and a psychology graduate student. "We steadfastly remain in opposition to his remaining in the FLA."

Likins signed the commitments in April 1999, stating that he would withdraw from the FLA if demands to improve independent monitoring, to increase women's rights, to create a living wage and to fully disclose factory locations were not met.

Likins is out of town and could not be reached for comment.

"For some of (the commitments), such as the one that talked about a scholarly consensus on a living wage, they are goals that nobody could meet," Kha said. "Some things you can't control even with every effort."

Members of SAS held a 10-day sit-in during April 1999, which was resolved when Likins signed the resolution, but Wilson said she cannot comment on any future SAS actions.

Likins' opinion of the UA's membership in the FLA may not be permanent, Kha said.

"I don't think it said he was never going to withdraw," she said. "I think he wasn't going to withdraw for now."

Wilson said SAS members thought they were misled by Likins but they are glad he "finally admitted" he will not withdraw. However, Wilson said SAS members hope Likins will still change his mind.

"He and his office put out a lot of this double talk, and it's unclear what to make of it," she said. "We are going to keep working to try to get him to withdraw."

Since Aug. 1, the date the commitments were to have been met, there has been discussion, dialogue and progress, Kha said.

"He was not willing to make a final decision until he had exhausted all possibilities," she said. "In dialogue, we moved forward, I believe, in finding some areas that we could cooperatively work on. When we started, we were farther apart."

Wilson thinks that time served a different purpose.

"I think he was waiting until he surveyed the climate on campus and tried to see what he could get away with," she said. "I think he believes that he can get away with breaking the commitments without a big fuss."

In Likins' letter, he said he wants to "pursue (SAS) your connections with worker co-ops and worker owned enterprises along the border."

SAS then forwarded Likins proposals that Likins has accepted, Kha said. Those proposals were to encourage UA research about sweatshops, to take a stronger role in the WRC and to investigate some manufacturers across the border.

"We are ready to move ahead with all of those," Kha said. "They're very constructive."

While Wilson said SAS wants to work with Likins regarding these proposals, more action is needed.

"Our suggestion to find an alternative licensing mechanism is not simply something that can be taken care of by just putting Mike Low (trademark licensing director) on it," Wilson said.

Kha said Likins' choice to remain in both the FLA and the Worker Rights Consortium is based on his need to take actions that will make a difference at UA.

"Rather than choosing between two programs that are looking at different ways to make some changes in sweatshop conditions, he has determined to stay in both organizations because they're very complimentary," Kha said.