March 24, 2008 IU Anti-Sweatshop Advisory Committee
The committee met for the first time since Adam Herbert resigned as the University president. The last meeting of the committee was over a year ago. Since the last meeting, IU Purchasing was reorganized. Dean of Students Dick McKaig is to look into getting someone from the University’s new licensing division to provide input to the committee on current products and contracts as they become relevant. Michael Berndt (CWA 4730) agreed to take on the task of updating the Website.
Designated Suppliers Program
The proposed alternative to the current reactive approach to ensuring compliance with the Workers Rights Consortium has been put in limbo by the U.S. Justice Dept. The Designated Suppliers Program was expected to be getting started in 2008, pending a favorable review letter from the Dept. After working up the ladder through career Justice staffers, the WRC was notified by a politically appointed senior official that, should a review letter be issued with regard to anti-trust issues, etc., it would not be favorable toward the proposed program. The WRC therefore withdrew the request for review, at least until the next election cycle.
News from the WRC regarding violations of workers’ rights by Jerzees brands in Honduras was mostly positive. Russell Athletics reinstated most of the workers in two factories under investigation, with back pay, among other steps, and agreed to revise its corporate Code of Conduct to include respect for workers’ rights, including collective bargaining. While one of the factories, Jerzees Choloma is now closing down in July, the company is working to relocate some workers to its other production site.
WRC is experiencing ongoing resistance to its investigation of discrimination and violation of workers’ associational rights from the New Era Cap Company. The Consortium is continuing its investigation, nonetheless, of the Mobile, Alabama facility, and hopes to issue a report soon.
News from China about a new labor law was tempered by reports of certain employers’ attempts to circumvent the law prior to its taking effect. Protests in Guangzhou City have been met with arrests and public sentencing. With the possible criminalization of protest action, WRC is keen to work with companies doing business in China to make sure the new law truly advances the status of workers.
A discussion of the Coca-Cola companies upcoming contract renewal with IU, dealt mainly with background regarding alleged violations in Indian and Columbia. The targeting of union organizers in Columbia is still pending investigation by an independent body. That review awaits resolution of safety issues, apparently.
Coca-cola’s commission of an independent review of its India operations with regard to water use has resulted in a seemingly comprehensive overhaul of its practices. In light of the changes, the University of Michigan reestablished their contract with the company. The situation with IU’s contract is to be considered within a years time.