The University Record, June 7, 1999

Committee on labor standards, human rights will advise Bollinger

Editor’s Note: The full text of the University’s code of conduct for manufacturers of items with U-M logos is on the Web at www.umich.edu/~urecord/9899/Mar22_99/15.htm.

By Joel Seguine
News and Information Services

President Lee C. Bollinger has announced formation of an Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights, which is called for in the University’s code of conduct for manufacturers of apparel and other items licensed to display U-M logos.

The comprehensive code, designed to ensure ethical business practices, was issued in March.

“We believe firmly,” the code states, “that workers in this country and abroad who help produce licensed goods bearing the insignia or name of the University of Michigan should be treated humanely and fairly and should work under healthy and safe conditions.”

The 10-member committee, which is to complete its work within the next year, includes students, faculty and staff members. It is chaired by John Chamberlin, interim dean and professor of Public Policy, School of Public Policy and professor of political science.

In his charge, Bollinger has asked the committee to study and recommend actions in at least four key areas:

  • Ensuring and monitoring compliance by licensees with U-M’s code of conduct.

  • Creating full public disclosure of manufacturing sites by licensees.

  • Identifying appropriate wage level(s)/compensation standards consistent with basic human rights and dignity.

  • Protecting women’s rights.

    “To achieve these goals,” Bollinger’s charge continues, “the committee is to undertake appropriate research studies, alone or in conjunction with other universities, and recommend University affiliation(s) as appropriate. The Committee may also choose to sponsor educational fora or other information-gathering activities.”

    Chamberlin hopes the group “can get started in the next two weeks. There are a number of very challenging conceptual issues we must wrestle with, including the notion of a Śliving wage’ and ways in which the rights of women are at risk under current practices,” Chamberlin said. “It is important that disclosure and monitoring procedures ensure sustainable improvements in workers’ lives, but designing such procedures for a worldwide industry that is quite decentralized is not an easy task. We need to understand clearly how a University of Michigan policy concerning labor standards will affect the lives of workers and their families.”

    “As the leading university in the sale of licensed apparel and other goods, we have a special responsibility to be a leader in developing labor standards which ensure that goods bearing Michigan’s name are produced under conditions that conform to ethical and legal business practices,” Chamberlin said.

    Also serving on the committee are:

    Phil Abruzzi, director of Purchasing, Stores and Auxiliary Services; Martha Johnson Chaddock, manager of trademarks and licensing, Athletic Department; Julie Fry, Class of 2001, political science, founding member and organizer, Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality (SOLE); Bryant Ison, Class of 2000, Business School, member, Students for Responsible Business;

    Linda Lim, associate professor of Business Administration and director, Southeast Asia Business Program; Larry Root, professor of social work and director, Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations; Joseph Sexauer, Class of 2000, communication studies, organizer and founding member, SOLE; Carol Weisman, professor of health management and policy and director, Interdepartmental Concentration in Reproductive and Women’s Health, School of Public Health; and Veronica Wilkerson Johnson, director, U-M Lansing Service Center.

    Students, especially through demonstrations by SOLE that included a sit-in in Bollinger’s office, had expressed concerns about working conditions in the factories turning out apparel carrying the “Block M” and other U-M logos. They had especially pushed for a “living wage” provision in any code of conduct the University might either develop or co-sign with other universities.

    The University’s code contains commitments to working toward establishing wage standards consistent with the human rights of workers and to requiring full public disclosure by licensees of their manufacturing sites. Since release of the code, the University has continued discussions with the students as well as with other universities—singly and in groups—and with governmental and non-governmental organizations and industry representatives on all issues relating to the code.


    Code of conduct

    The University’s code of conduct for companies that produced licensed goods bearing the U-M insignia or name contains a number of provisions aimed to ensure:

  • Compliance with all applicable national laws.

  • Compensation standards, including payment of the higher of the minimum wage or local prevailing wage.

  • Humane limitations on the required hours of work.

  • Premium rates for overtime work.

  • Limitations on child labor, consistent with international and national law.

  • Prohibition of forced labor.

  • Safe and healthy working environment.

  • Nondiscrimination in employment based on gender, race, religion, age, disability, nationality or ethnic origin.

  • Prohibition of harassment of employees.

  • Freedom of association and collective bargaining.

    The full text of the document is on the Web at www.umich.edu/~urecord/9899/Mar22_99/15.htm.