FROM THE PRESIDENT: On Membership
in WRC and FLA
- The following letter was sent by President Judith Rodin to Dr. Gregory
- the members of the Committee for Manufacturer Responsibility on
December 13. The
- Committee had sent a letter on November
20 to the President along with a Majority
- Opinion and a Minority
Response to the Committee for Manufacturer Responsibility
Dear Dr. Possehl and members of the Committee:
Thanks for your letter of recommendation. I am very grateful for the
time and effort the Committee has spent discussing the topic of fair labor.
I understand the strong feelings surrounding this complex issue and appreciate
the thoughtful process by which you came to a conclusion. Your careful consideration
and analysis of the two monitoring organizations, the Worker Rights Consortium
(WRC) and the Fair Labor Association (FLA), have provided me with extremely
useful insight in making a decision.
I would like to highlight some of the salient facts noted in your report,
along with some other useful information that has been made available this
- Both of these organizations are young and untested, and neither of
them has yet begun to monitor the apparel industry.
- Both the WRC and the FLA have sound values and strong ties to international
human rights organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
- The founders and staff of both organizations appear committed to improving
working conditions for international labor.
- Both the WRC and the FLA have strong Codes of Conduct, in harmony with
Penn's values and our own Code.
- Approximately 15 other Colleges and Universities now belong to both
organizations, including Brown, Columbia, Cornell and Michigan among others.
- There are important differences in approach between the WRC and the
FLA. The WRC is charged primarily with monitoring apparel companies that
make goods bearing the identification of colleges and universities. The
FLA is charged with monitoring the apparel industry world-wide, whether
apparel is made for college and university use, or the general public.
- The scale and mission of the FLA and the WRC are complementary. In
many ways, the WRC provides access to a relatively small, focused monitoring
organization, where, by and large, college and university needs set the
agenda. The FLA works in a much larger arena, becoming engaged in monitoring
the apparel industry internationally, addressing sweatshop issues wherever
they are found, not just those concerned with our licensees.
- The WRC and the FLA approach the monitoring of the international apparel
industry somewhat differently. The WRC will monitor the apparel industry
in three ways: 1) response to worker complaints, 2) industry disclosure
and self-policing, and 3) the selective use of field teams to respond to
chronic, repeated reports of labor abuse and tolerance of sweatshop conditions.
The FLA will also use industry disclosure and self-policing and will respond
to worker complaints. Further, the FLA will have an extensive, pro-active
monitoring program, fielding a large number of national and international
inspection teams that will enter workshops, interview workers and seek
out full knowledge of working conditions, on the spot.
- The WRC has grown and changed over the past year. It has formed a Governing
Board and an Advisory Board, and appointed an executive director. Policies
are being implemented and plans are being made to test the "complaint
response" form of monitoring. The WRC also continues to reach out
to NGOs around the world informing them of the WRC's presence and mission.
- The WRC has five seats on its Board dedicated to college and university
representation. They also have five student representatives there. By joining
the WRC, Penn gains significant influence at the Board and policy level.
- The FLA also has made several significant changes since the final report
of Penn's Ad Hoc Committee on Sweatshops. The FLA has replaced US-based
accounting firms with local NGOs in all monitoring. The FLA also has appointed
an NGO Advisory Council, with 23 labor and human rights organizations.
They continue to reach out to NGOs around the world informing them of the
FLA's presence and mission. The FLA expects to officially begin its monitoring
program following the January meeting of the FLA board.
- The FLA has been aggressively enhancing its NGO training program that
22 schools, led by the eight Ivies and St. John's, launched in June of
1999. This program has been preparing NGOs for factory monitoring in Guatemala,
El Salvador, Honduras and Taiwan four apparel-producing countries
where companies operate that supply university licensees, and where sweatshop
practices have been revealed. It has further demonstrated the commitment
of colleges and universities to active NGO participation in the FLA and
in illustrating an important way in which colleges and universities have
helped shape the priorities and capacities of the FLA.
- The FLA has organized a University Advisory Council Executive Committee
with 15 University Representatives. Members of the Committee recently met
with a dozen major licensees to answer their questions and respond to their
- The full FLA board will vote this month on a proposition to add an
additional University seat.
Despite the progress of both groups, it seems clear that neither organization
has yet completed all the necessary preparations for the monitoring tasks
at hand; each has more to do. Our involvement with each will allow us to
continue to work towards the growth and development of full-fledged monitoring
I have benefited from the continuing efforts of PSAS on behalf of the
WRC. Their commitment and staunch belief in the work of the WRC have influenced
my thinking significantly about the organization. I also appreciate the
recent analysis of the Undergraduate Assembly. The UA reasoned that membership
in both monitoring organizations will enhance the University's ability to
ensure that University-licensed apparel is made under acceptable working
conditions, and I find little to challenge in the UA's position. The UA's
rationale, along with PSAS' and others', has been very helpful, and I am
grateful for their thoughtful analysis and commitment to this complex issue.
I concur, in the end with the Committee's recommendation that Penn join
the 15 other universities and colleges that have become members of both
the WRC and the FLA. I believe the two organizations complement each other,
and Penn should remain a member of both so long as the two organizations
continue to operate in a complementary, non-duplicative manner. The Committee
for Manufacturer Responsibility will follow the progress of both organizations
closely. Its members should review annually the effectiveness of the organizations
conducting monitoring to ensure compliance with the Code of Workplace Conduct
for Penn Apparel Licensees and take appropriate steps to ensure effective
As we proceed as a member of both organizations, I encourage continuing,
constructive discourse on campus in support of our common goal--ensuring
that items bearing Penn's name are made under safe and humane conditions.
I look forward to the spring symposium on campus that you are planning.
Thank you again for all of your efforts.
Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 16, December 19, 2000
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| FROM THE PRESIDENT:
Response to Committee for Manufacturer Responsibility) | PENNs WAY 2001: Week 7 |
TEACHING ARCHIVE | BETWEEN
ISSUES | JANUARY at PENN