Starting with a Clean Slate

President Judith Rodin sent the following to Sam Brown, executive director of the FLA, on February 15, 2000.

 Dear Mr. Brown:

As you know, the University of Pennsylvania community has been concerned with which organization or organizations would be best suited to monitor the manufacture of Penn apparel. Last night, the members of Penn Students Against Sweatshops and I agreed that the only way the University can take a truly open look at the merits of the Fair Labor Association and the Worker Rights Consortium, and make an informed decision, is to start with a clean slate.

As I have spoken with our students, they have continued to raise questions about, among other things, worker representation on the FLA's executive board, the FLA's capacity for handling worker complaints, and public disclosure of factory locations and conditions.

Questions such as these need to be carefully considered by Penn's Ad-Hoc Committee on Sweatshop Labor. To allow this to happen, I have decided that the University should withdraw from the FLA, effective today, so that the Committee can take a fresh look at the monitoring organization or organizations to which Penn should belong. I have asked the committee, which includes Penn faculty, students and staff, to make a recommendation to me by February 29, 2000. At that time, based on the committee's recommendation, the materials I have read, and the conversations I have had with Penn Students Against Sweatshops and with other college and university leaders, I will decide if Penn should re-join the FLA, join the WRC, or some combination of both.

We all share the important goal of ensuring and protecting fair labor practices. I am confident that Penn's Ad-Hoc Committee on Sweatshop Labor will help the University achieve this goal by carefully analyzing all available information on the FLA and the WRC and then providing me with a thoughtful recommendation.


Judith Rodin

Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 22, February 22, 2000