Miami University, OH Joins Workers Rights Consortium

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Miami University, OH, US

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Type: Policy

Status: Announced on 3/24/00

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Miami University has agreed to join the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a collaborative effort by organizations, universities and workers to eliminate the use of sweatshops to produce university-licensed products.

In January, the Miami University Staff & Students Against Sweatshops (MUSAS) urged the university to join WRC, which it labeled "the most effective approach to improving the conditions of workers who make university apparel."

Miami's Fair Labor Committee met twice with MUSAS representatives and studied other materials before recommending last week to President James Garland that Miami join the WRC. Garland concurred, meaning Miami becomes one of the first 20 universities to commit to WRC membership in some form.

Beginning with any new or renewed agreements after July 1, Miami will require companies that license or manufacture products carrying the university's name or logos to fully disclose factory locations and adopt a code of conduct.

The code must provide for a fair living wage, the right to organize and collectively bargain, protection of workers' health and safety, compliance with local laws, protection of women's rights, and prohibitions of child labor, forced labor, and forced overtime, among other protections for workers.

Miami's Fair Labor Committee noted some concerns about the WRC, including its long-term viability, given that the consortium is holding its founding conference in April, and the lack of greater university representation and any industry representation on its proposed governing board.

However, "we very much desire to support the continued activism of our students toward the elimination of sweatshops through the WRC," said Richard Little, senior director of university communications and a member of the Fair Labor Committee. "The student voice has been a vital force in raising the nation's awareness of the issue and pushing for significant progress," added Little. "And while the organization is still evolving, it is important to have Miami students involved in its formative stages."

Last June, Miami refused a request to join the Fair Labor Association (FLA), formed as a result of White House-led talks involving manufacturers, trade unions, human rights organizations and others. The university was disappointed in the FLA's initial failure to mandate disclosure of manufacturing sites and provide sufficient protection of workers' rights, said Little, but "we do reserve the right to join the FLA or another organization to complement the activities of the WRC. To solve the sweatshop issues worldwide, all parties should be represented and work together. If an organization emerges that can effectively draw together everyone, we should consider supporting it."