On Penn's Commitment to Fair Labor Practices

The University of Pennsylvania has for over a year been actively addressing the issue of working conditions of factory workers abroad who produce items bearing a Penn trademark.

In the spring of 1999, Penn joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA), an initiative sponsored by the United States Department of Labor and designed to promote the improvement of working conditions for these workers. The FLA is a non-profit organization that includes a broad range of labor and human rights groups, apparel companies, colleges and universities. Over 130 colleges and universities support the FLA. The FLA Board includes representatives of organizations deeply committed to improving working conditions of employees around the world. These organizations include:

  • the International Labor Rights Fund
  • the Lawyers' Committee For Human Rights
  • the National Consumers League
  • the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights

Charles Ruff, former White House counsel, serves as Chair the FLA Board. In addition, Sam Brown has been hired to be the FLA Executive Director. Mr. Brown has served as Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the United States to the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe. He has worked closely with human rights groups concerning the full implementation of the Helsinki Accords. He has served as head of the Action Agency, with responsibility for both the Peace Corps and domestic volunteer programs, including VISTA.

The FLA's purpose is to ensure the inspection and monitoring of factories, and to report publicly on factories' compliance with the FLA Code of Conduct. The FLA requires every factory to be inspected every year.

The FLA Code of Conduct prohibits:

  • Forced labor
  • Child labor
  • Harassment or abuse, whether it be physical, sexual or psychological
  • Discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, political opinion, or social or ethnic origin

The FLA Code of Conduct requires:

  • A safe and healthy working environment
  • Employers to respect employees' freedom of association and collective bargaining rights
  • Compliance--with local minimum wage and benefit laws, or adherence to industry standards, whichever is higher. The FLA Code has, as an ultimate goal, of providing a wage that "meet[s] employees' basic needs"
  • Employers to limit the regular work-week to 48 hours, and prohibits more than 12 hours of overtime after the regular work-week
  • Payment of overtime compensation.

Penn Will Adopt a Code of Conduct

To supplement the FLA Code, and ensure proper working conditions at Penn licensee facilities, Penn has formed a Task Force to draft a Code of Conduct for Penn licensees. This Task Force held its first two meetings last week. This past fall, Penn required its licensees to agree to abide by a Code of Conduct if Penn decided to adopt such a Code.

Penn Has Joined a Monitoring Project

Penn has also recognized the need to have neutral, non-partisan, trained monitors. This past summer Penn joined in funding a special project, being conducted by the International Labor Rights Fund, designed to train local non-government, non-corporate, monitors/inspectors. This program will increase the number of organizations who will be qualified and prepared to assist in FLA monitoring. This Labor Rights Fund monitoring initiative, spearheaded by Penn and the other Ivy League Schools, will provide valuable experience to the FLA.

Penn Has Required Disclosure of Licensee Locations

In order to assist in the implementation of the FLA, and the enforcement of the FLA Code of Conduct, this past spring Penn began to require its licensees to fully disclose the locations of all manufacturing facilities producing items with a Penn trademark. Every license that Penn has granted will be renewed before the end of this calendar year. The new license agreement will require disclosure, by January 15 of every year, of the location of every facility producing items bearing a Penn trademark. Penn will be publicly disclosing factory locations within ten days.

Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 21, February 15, 2000