The University Record, August 14, 2000

Committee recommends stronger code

By Joel Seguine
News and Information Services

A stronger code of conduct for licensees, establishment of a standing advisory committee and broader national participation in efforts to monitor licensee compliance are among the actions to be taken based on recommendations in a report released Aug. 2 by President Lee C. Bollinger.

The Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights was charged by Bollinger in June 1999 to study key issues relating to the manufacture of licensed apparel and other items bearing U-M logos. The committee was established in accordance with the Anti-Sweatshop/Human Rights policy issued in March 1999. “The University owes deep gratitude to the faculty, staff and students who served on this committee,” said Bollinger in a statement released with a summary of the report.

According to Bollinger’s statement, the committee was formed “to help the University define, develop and implement policies to ensure that corporations making licensed goods bearing the imprint of the University of Michigan are not engaged in unlawful or unconscionable labor practices.”

Bollinger said two fundamental principles guided consideration of the committee’s recommendations:

“Our licensee code of conduct should reflect our core values and set standards that can be implemented and monitored in a consistent and fair manner. Further, in developing the code, we must be alert to possible unintended negative consequences that the provisions could have for workers.”

“For a code of conduct to be effective, it must be based on the internal efforts of licensees and there must be verification methods in place so that noncompliance can be determined.”

“It is imperative that we keep this process moving forward,” Bollinger said. “The University has a longstanding commitment to ethically sound business practices and fundamental human rights. We must promote these practices by working with the many people and organizations engaged in these issues—the licensees, manufacturers, workers, students, university and government officials, and human rights advocates.”

In addition to continuing to participate actively in the Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC), Bollinger said the University also will join the Fair Labor Association (FLA) on a provisional basis. The advisory committee split on whether to join the FLA, a joint body of university, industry and non-governmental organizations. However, Bollinger said, “I am convinced that participation in the FLA adds an important option for our efforts in this area and, in the words of the Committee, there are ‘productive synergies in memberships in both the WRC and the FLA.’”

The committee recommended new language for the University’s code of conduct for licensees, including sections to address standards of compensation for workers and the need to work further with other universities to achieve a common code to replace the multiple ones that can cause confusion among licensees.

The new Standing Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights will be appointed by early September. Its charge will be to follow up on the advisory committee’s recommendations and implement the actions announced by Bollinger in his statement. For example, Bollinger will charge the standing committee to seek the input of licensees as well as other universities in an effort to arrive at a common code of conduct.

The advisory committee was chaired by John Chamberlin, professor of public policy and of political science and associate dean of the School of Public Policy; Linda Lim, associate professor of business administration; Larry Root, professor of social work and director of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations;

Carol Weisman, professor of health management and policy and of obstetrics and gynecology; Phil Abruzzi, director of Purchasing and Stores; Martha Johnson Chaddock, promotions coordinator, Athletic Department; Veronica Johnson, senior state and community relations officer; and students Julie Fry, Bryant Ison and Joe Sexauer. The full text of the committee’s report may be found at www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/BG/humright.html (the Word version of the report is at www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/BG/hrreport.doc). A complete copy of Bollinger’s remarks also is available on the Web at www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/Releases/2000/ Aug00/lcbstate.html.