A University Senate External Relations Committee
Open Forum with Representatives from the
Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Workers Rights Consortium (WRC)
March 3, 2000, 10:30 a.m. to Noon
Associate General Counsel and Senate External Relations Subcommittee on Sweatshops (Senate ExtRSS) member Beryl Abrams
Press for Change Director and WRC Advisory Council Member Jeffrey Ballinger
FLA Executive Director Sam Brown
Columbia Students Against Sweatshops member and Senate ExtRSS member Ginger Gentile
Student Senator (SEAS) and ExtRSS member Brian London
Faculty Senator and Senate ExtRSS chair Eugene Litwak
Marion [surname unknown]
Student Senator (GSAS) and ExtRSS member Roosevelt Montas
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Executive Director (FLA affiliate) Michael Posner
Vice President, Public Affairs, and Senate ExtRSS member Alan Stone
The Senate External Relations Committee met with the speakers at 9:30 a.m. for an hour, at which time the meeting was opened to the public. This record covers only the open meeting.
Chair Eugene Litwak: Before we go on, I would just like to make a procedural point. We do have some students down here and I want to tell them that the floor is open to their comments if they would like to speak, if they would just let us know and we will respond to their comments as well. Yes, come and sit at the table.
[Faculty Senator and member of the External Relations Subcommittee on Sweatshops Carol Kunzel had just finished speaking when the meeting was opened to the public; Kunzel had asked FLA Executive Director Sam Brown if the FLA had any structures to accommodate student input, and described the FLAís view of students as diversions rather than as strengths in anti-sweatshop efforts. Sam Brown was about to respond when the meeting was opened to visitors.]
Dr. Litwak: Letís proceed with this question.
Mr. Brown: Iím not sure that I am entirely comfortable with your [to Carol Kunzel] characterization of what I said, so let me say clearly, again as Michael [Posner] says, I was not around a year ago but Michael has said that USAS [United Students Against Sweatshops, the national organization to which Columbia Students Against Sweatshops (CSAS) is part] was offered to sit at the table on the board of NGOs [non-governmental organizations] at the Fair Labor Association. After a great deal of internal debate, that offer was declined. That offer remains an open possibility.
I am, continue to be, a little confused about what the position is of the WRC [Workers Rights Consortium] since I heard one thing from Jeffrey today, and I have seen a number of other things over a period of time from other people representing the WRC. So I am not entirely sure where we are on it. We have always thought that universities have established a higher standard, like on full disclosure, which is terrific. The FLA [Fair Labor Association] is a baseline, itís a foundationóitís not a ceiling. You can add additional universitiesí specific requirements to the Code and thatís terrific, and one thatís been important has been the one on transparency, where we couldnít get that agreement but a lot of universities got that agreement as a result of their persistence. Thatís terrific, great.
It seems to me that what we set out to do in a kind of systematic way can easily be supported by people calling to our attention the places where there are specific problems, where they want a specific kind of detailed monitoring. We are happy to go and take a look at that. So I am not sure what the problem is. The big difference is that the university and the WRC focus[es] on using exclusively and specifically the licensing mechanisms to enforce change and, as I keep pointing out to you, thatís cleaning your dormitory room, not changing the world. Thatís two thirds of one percent of the market.
That is, you know, fine, make it perfect, but at the same time donít diminish from the effort to change the rest of the industry that doesnít have anything to do with university policies, which is what in the long term we want and where we would welcome a cooperative relationship to make that happen.
Mr. Ballinger: I just want to say to Carol [Kunzel, senator and faculty member of Senate External Relations Committee, who questioned Sam Brown on the FLAís attitude toward students before the meeting was open to the public], also, that I donít purport to speak for the WRC in welcoming a two-track parallel kind of operation. Iím curious to see where the FLA goes. I think a lot of people are. I donít think itís going to be nearly at a pace thatís going to have the students assured that progress is being made. Thatís where I think the rub comes. And I think there is also some antagonism on the part of the students that I find very reasonable. They had movement that really showed some powerówitness the disclosure issue, to which the companies said at first "Oh, we can never tell you where the factories are because of competition reasons."
Well, you know, thatís all by the wayside because the universities said, "Hey, we got nowhere to hide on this issue, you better tell us where the factories are." And sure enough they did. So I think the students then felt, well, for this vibrant movement to be sort of appended to something that they werenít real sure that they can have an influence in and whether the influence would be to change some provisions here and maybe that procedure there. They didnít want that. So I think a lot of the antagonism flows from their desire to do a certain thing and then be routed into an area where they thought maybe we can have an influence but it was never our idea.
Mr. Montas: I want to bring back the discussion to the immediate question of Columbiaís affiliation with the FLA vs. the WRC. The Columbia Spectator reported two days ago that students, Columbia Students Against Sweatshop, just represented here, issued an ultimatum to the University to leave the FLA and to join the WRC by the end of the month. There has been some talk about sit-ins, etc., and I want to address myselfóI am a student senator, Roosevelt [Montas] from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. I have been looking forward to this meeting as a way to evaluate the merits of both institutions, so I can make an informed opinion what my position will be on this issue. From what I have seen today, I have seen nothing compelling that would lead us to leave the FLA and join the WRC. I am comfortable with many aspects of both institutions but I would just like to see if we could focus this discussion, and particularly, I am addressing myself to the representative from CSAS to tell us why we should lead the FLA, why we should join the WRC, because I havenít seen anything convincing yet and I donít want this meeting to go by and not to resolve this issue head-on, and then have to deal with sit-ins and protests. I want to talk about it now. I want to see what the issues are so that we can make an informed decision based on all the facts. And here we have representatives from both groups.
Ms. Gentile: Thank you, Roosevelt. I want to make it clear right now that we are not promising a sit-in, though the mood on the campus as with other campuses around the country is that people want this process, which is going to go rapidly because we feel that this should be resolved soon and that is pretty much the mood on this campus. Iíve said it once, I will say it again, I have no control over the mood. I am one voting member of CSAS. I am not the president. Basically, I think this has really not come out in the discussion.
After I speak out, I would want to invite Marion to speak. Marion just came back from Guatemala. She works with an NGO in Guatemala and maybe she should say a few words on why it is so important from her experience on the ground. Basically what hasnít really come up is a few thingsówhich is, we feel that an accreditation of companies as a no-sweat company is a really hellacious move to be made and thatís what the FLA claims to do, that they claim to accredit companies as "no-sweat," and the reason we feel that this is such a bad policy is that when you only monitor a certain amount of factories independently, you canít really say that the rest of the company is sweat-free. And as was stated, that seven percent of the companies would be monitored internally, right now most companies have internal monitoring processes that are already going on.
If you go on their web site, Nike has a code of conduct and they claim, of course, that they in some way enforce the code of conduct. Every other company that I know of has some sort of code of conduct posted on the factory walls and they even do monitoring visits, and still nothing has really changed and this is what concerns meóthese companies are so committed to changing the way things are on the ground, yet how come this change hasnít already begun to happen by a company? For example, we had workers from the Kathie Lee Gifford plant, which is a part of Wal-Mart, speak to us in October. They said that monitoring was common in modern-day plants, probably sent by Wal-Mart or Kathie Lee herself, and what they said happened is that each business to be monitored was announced in advance. Basically they put tape on the walls and talked to the factory workers in the factory, and essentially nothing got done. One of the main reasons wasnít just how monitoring was conducted, but that they were conducted by people who are not in the area. That could be a minor point but you know in the global South I think there is a natural distrust, you know, there is a natural mistrust by workers of monitors who are not from the local area, because there has already been monitoring from people and itís been ineffective.
One thing about the WRC that I donít think Jeffrey has talked about enoughóand thatís why I want to call Marion to talk about itóis that the WRC is not saying that to really be an accredited monitor you have to work with NGOs who are indigenous to the area, but that you have be an indigenous NGO who knows the area, who knows the conditions, but most important, who has the trust of the workers. Because workers often get fired for speaking out, and that has been the pattern. So you have to create this basic trust when you speak out, even if youíre the best accounting firm in the world, who really tries to have these relationships with local NGOs. I donít think youíre going to be trusted unless you are on the ground and you are a local NGO, and that is what the WRC is committed to.
We hear that people should be able to distinguish between the good and the bad companies. I donít really buy that, now that theyíre making one or two exceptions that these companies are all good. And trust me, I do come from a labor background and I would love to believe that companies are changing and are committed to good. I believe that that is possible, but from what I have seen they have joined the FLA but they havenít changed their internal processes yet. Thatís why I feel that itís kind of like the criminals pleasing themselves at this point, because I regard these companies as human rights violators who have the finances and the resources to do something about it but who havenít. The FLA isnít off the ground yet, but still thatís no excuse. But basically the main reason why factory conditions are so horrible is because they are not putting enough money into these factories, and they have the money to do so. I want to ask Marion if she can elaborate on the importance of thisóis that okay?
Dr. Litwak: Yes, this part of the meeting is now open for students, it is open for everyone.
Ms. Gentile: If you can talk about the importance of NGO monitoring, and also maybe convince why people [inaudible] must join just the WRC and not [the FLA].
Marion: My name is Marion [inaudible]. Iím working in Guatemala for an NGO that [inaudible]. Before that I also organized [inaudible]. I guess I want to address the question that has been brought up [inaudible]. The FLA began as a process to have some external monitoring of companies, but I think what happened is the exclusion of labor and other NGOs, that the FLA was meant to be a project of internal monitoring of companies. Companies realized or recognized they need to have internal monitoring, so they developed the FLA to do that.
The most interesting thing Iíve heard about the FLA from the outside was that [inaudible] the Ford Foundation [inaudible] social accreditation [inaudible] and the most single important thing was to have all the players at the table and the problem with the FLA is that all the players have not been at the table, i.e., workers and unions and NGOs from the South, not to mention the [inaudible] So I came to understand the FLA as a total process for companies to get their house in order.
Now why universities should leave the FLA, especially since the companies need to get their house in order and the WRC recognizes that, there is no reason why the universities should be contributing monetarily to that process or lending credibility to that process, because the companies want to get a reward, which is the most [inaudible] getting their own house in order. I think thatís really the problem, that universities are going to give their seal of approval [inaudible] when itís really just an internal monitoring process. The issue of monitoring on the ground and [inaudible] doing [inaudible] I just came back from a conference in Nicaragua. The major issue over there wasnít that [inaudible] the whole issue of U.S. [inaudible]. Not an area I can speak to [inaudible].
But there was incredible frustration expressed by these NGOs that the idea that Price Waterhouse comes around and consults these NGOs to do their monitoring and as the NGOs said, "That we turn into the little Latinos [inaudible] of the [inaudible] transnational, again. That they just come and insult us and weíre not part of the process or even part [inaudible] and these workers, these issues and all the [inaudible] in the context [inaudible]. So thatís a major issue that was expressed. In general, I think that universities shouldnít be part of the FLA [inaudible] profits and then weíll get the [inaudible]. And the universities should be contributing their efforts and their resources to [inaudible] that will protect that process [inaudible]. They may be only two thirds of one percent of the industry but the point is, it is ground-breaking, absolutely ground-breaking, to think that eventually there will be control over the monitoring process and that workers should not just consulted [inaudible], that the key workers that management [inaudible], but rather that the process should be based on workersí complaints. Youíve heard things that [inaudible] pushing production and trying to make it not just some political thing to push from the north but rather something that we need [inaudible].
Dr. Litwak: Please speak louder. I think you should also address some of [inaudible].
Mr. Brown: Now, I think, itís very useful to have this discussion, because now we have an opportunity to address misapprehensions and misinformation, [inaudible] much of which is reflected in this document [CSAS handout] which is simply factually inaccurate from top to bottom. And we have had this discussion for a substantial amount of time before you were here [to M(?)], so I donít blame you for not having not been a part of it or preparing to talk about it.
First, with regard to the NGO [inaudible] I think your program knows that the board of the FLA has on it, among other people, someone that is definitely referred to as a human rights hero, and I think correctly so: Pharis Harvey [Executive Director, International Labor Rights Fund]. He has worked for twenty-five years on this set of issues, mostly in the South, much of it in Asia. And it has other NGOs, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the NCL [National Consumers League] and so forth, Shelt, Santer & Gayle [spelling uncertain]. It has an advisory board of about twenty-five, now about twenty-five, other NGOs that are advisory to them including many from the South. That list is available on the FLA website. So this is not a bunch of companies sitting around deciding what to do themselves, it is a balanced board with a carefully negotiated process with very strong human rights advocates constituting half of that board, plus a university representative, who effectively becomes the swing vote, because the board is six/six up to that point. And thatís the thirteenth member of the board.
In terms of the exclusion of labor, I think those of you who followed it closely know that unions were involved in the first two years of this process. And [their absence now has] probably little to do with the FLA and everything to do with disagreement between the administration and the unions on China policy. The unions pulled out last summer after being involved in the process from the beginning. If you go back and read the statement at the time, it is very ambivalent at the time of the pullout because there is an enormous split even in the trade unions about whether they should or shouldnít be a part of the process. There are two seats on the board still open. I have said here repeatedly that one of those seats has been offered to USAS except [inaudible] seats from the NGO side. I know there is great flexibility to welcome labor back where it should be, which is inside the tent, not outside the tent.
The questions of NGO involvement were discussed in some detail and I commend to you accreditation procedures or monitors, which you will find on the FLA website. It is an entirely transparent process, which is designed to include NGOs. It is the reason why we are now spending, in six different countries, training NGOsóyou may have run into one another [to M(?)]. Weíre training NGOs to become monitors so that by the time the monitoring process begins they will be in a position to participate as monitors in the process, not as observers, not as the little brother or little sister of some accounting firm.
[Inaudible] Accreditation standards came out only a week or two weeks ago after a year of negotiation, and I think if you read them carefully, you will see that there was enormous effort there to insure that they are sensitive to the local needs, theyíre engaged with the local NGOs, that they have the involvement, that they interview people in a way that is sensitive to the problems that they face.
Then the problem I have, frankly, is that when I look at this kind of document [CSAS March 1, 2000, handout, FAQís About Sweatshops], it is simplyóI know itís a student, but I was [inaudible] [laughter]. I was myself thrown out of a college thirty years ago over a sit-in where we occupied a hall, and so this is not an entirely unfamiliar process for me. I know itís people trying to do the best they can and trying to find the best information that they can. But itís simply not accurate information.
I think when you say that the mood on the campus is a particular mood, that mood is driven by consistent and persistent misinformation and mischaracterization. It is hardly surprising that itís a hostile mood. If you say the FLA is doing nothing about womenís rights, Iíd be mad, too. If you say the FLA doesnít do anything to insure external monitoring, Iíd be mad, too. If you say only big accounting firms will monitor, Iíd be mad, too. Of course youíd be mad. The mood on the campus is, in part, driven by what information people have. If what they have is persistent misinformation.
Just to take a couple of points: "The FLA only calls for 10%" to be tracked and "monitored over a one-year period, and 5%" over "the next two years." Not true. It [the FLA charter] requires thirty percent monitoring, continuous five percent and a review by university statisticians to determine whether that percentage gives you an accurate reading of the entire market. In addition, there is a challenge process so that if there is a factory that wasnít monitored, it can be monitored by someone wholly to our advantage.
It "allows companies to pick which factories will be visited." Not true. It requires the companies to give a list, which I determine whether the list is accurate, and it says that the list shall start with those areas of highest risk. It says specifically theyíre supposed to tell us the factories, they have to expose all the factories, and then theyíre to tell us which ones are in the highest risk, largest numbers, highest risk countries, places where there is a history of abuse. That is not the company selecting [inaudible], that is us selecting internally its professional staff.
"Doesnít protect womenís rights." Before I read you the language from the monitoring document, which I hope will be done in the next thirty or forty-five days which includes enormously strong protection for womenís rights.
"Allows companies to Ďhand-pickí their monitors." They pick their monitors from a list accredited by us on a set of standards that are wholly transparent, wholly transparent. You can read them, you can see them and if you donít like them, complain to us, but donít say " they get to do whatever they want."
In terms of disclosure of locations, itís true, the FLA doesnít require we see that as a base. Columbia does, many other universities do. We think thatís great; that there should be FLA Plus. Where you can agree on higher standards, thatís terrific, you should take those higher standards.
This [CSAS] says, the Worker Rights [Consortium, or WRC] "requires continuous, independent monitoring of all these companiesí factories." It simply, itís the only, itís the first time Iíve ever seen it. The whole core idea of the WRC is that it doesnít require continuous monitoring but challenge-Gotcha! kind of monitoring, to try and find the factories that are bad even if itís only one at a time.
It "holds licensees responsible Ö rather than subcontractors, thereby diminishingÖ." We hold the companies responsible and they are the ones who subcontract those factories. We hold them responsible. Thatís what the membership means. Thatís what the requirements do.
In terms of the no-sweat certification, itís a two-year process during which one hundred percent of their factories must be inspected. Seventy percent internally with the same standard, thirty percent externally, and a review to see that adequate [inaudible] is reflective of the overall monitoring. The reason for that, frankly, in part, is financial. We are talked about monitoring at a cost of four or five thousand dollars per factory, four or five thousand factories. This is not an inconsequential issue. If we monitor thirty percent and we discover that is not enough, we are obligated to go back with outside counsel to look at whether that is an adequate representation.
It [FLA charter] explicitly forbids all of these things that the WRC says that itís the first place to forbid, firing for pregnancy, forced abortions. I read you that language earlier and it provides for a living wage. Nobody knows what a living wage is. My understanding is, the last document I saw from the WRC they said whatís required is further studies of the issue of living wage. So, weíre dealing with a moving target and a set of misinformation, which makes itóof course the campus attitude is bad, Iíd be angry too. If what people were saying about it was true, Iíd be furious, Iíd be pissed, Iíd be out in the street. Thatís not, itís simply not true. Theyíre not dealing with the truth about whatís going on and thatís that.
Mr. Ballinger: There is some misinformation of course, which comes from the company side as well. Companies that have pledged because of their FLA membership that they are the best companies, that they are on the White House panel, that they are leaders in this field. They have pledged themselves on freedom of association. I told you what happened in the factory in Indonesia where these workers have tried for ten, fifteen years to organize and to bargain with the union. What does Nike say about freedom of association in its membership in the FLA, and what does it do in practice? Thatís why these students are so upset because they see the rhetoric. They seeóno, noólet me finish, please, because this goes right to the heart of the issue.
The issue is that these companies are not credible. They have promised and promised and promised and they never delivered on their promises before. And now, they are saying, "well, weíve got this Fair Labor Association and weíre the good guys." You know what Phil Mike said, the CEO of Nike, when he walked into the White House for the first meeting of the Apparel Industry Partnership. Nike put out a press release that said, "Weíre not here to rewrite economic history." Now what do you think he meant by that? He meant that everything is working fine for us and has been for years, mainly because of this paradigm here. You know, the World Bank put it all out there, how you attract foreign investments, how these companies will benefit from workers that donít have any rights. When the company is defiant and goes out there and does just what it says its going to do, then walks into the White House and says, "Weíre not here to change a damn thing," then I think that the misinformation aboutó. Every university in the country has gotten this letter from Nike that says "we are a proud member of the FLA, and we agree to all these things about freedom of association and all this whole list of things, weíre the good guys." Well, the students have a right to be cynical. If there is some misinformation, youíre teamed up with people who have been leading the misinformation drive out there, and I think, you can nitpick and say that, you know, "some of the things that we are promising to do are not the same as youíre saying weíre capable of doing." I just donít think, you know, you canít point a finger at the students on the issue of misinformation and leave your partners in the business community untouched.
Mr. Brown: I wonít. They put out misinformation. Our job is to go find it. This process is now eight months old. We havenít certified a monitor, we havenít gotten it in the field. The union movement in this county is seventy years old and there are still sweatshops in this country. No, at eight months we have not ended sweatshops. That is absolutely true. Guilty as charged.
The question is what are we going to do over the years ahead and what allies are we going to have in doing it. I would rather have union allies, and strong union allies than not have them. Iím sorry we donít have them, I wish we did have them, I think it improve the process. What I can tell you is, the people on our board, and you said it yourself, Jeffrey, these are people of enormous integrity who among them have a hundred years, the poor people, a hundred years of experience of human rights work. You cannot say that those people are clones and clowns following Nikeís line. Itís simply not fair to them, and you know it. You said it earlier.
Mr. Ballinger: I didnít say anything aboutó. Nikeís put out a letter to the government of Viet Nam that said these anti-sweatshop activists are trying to bring down communism in Viet Nam. A Nike official, vice president of Nike, sent a letter to the government of Viet Nam. What kind of response did we get from the FLA?
Mr. Brown: When was that?
Mr. Ballinger: It was about a year and a half ago [approximately October 1998].
Mr. Brown: There wasnít an FLA a year and a half ago.
Mr. Ballinger: Okay, a year ago [approximately March 1999]. Youíre going to stick on this ridiculous distinction of whether there was an FLA or not? There was the AIP process.
Mr. Brown: The FLA Charter was signed in June . Thatís when the FLA took effect. Until that time it was in negotiation.
Mr. Ballinger: Look, you have not called these companies to account. You have never said anything about the continuing abuses of workers in these countries. You have no credibility.
Mr. Brown: You didnít sit here this morning and hear me say that in every one of these countries there are abuses going on? Iím sure they are going on in these companies. I said it earlier, Iíll say it again. Our job is to stop it, not to cover it up. I said it earlier. Just because everybody didnít hear me say it earlier, and Jeffrey seems to suggest I didnít. The tone of this discussion has changed radically since the audience changed, I can tell you that.
Dr. Litwak: Okay, letís see, I think we had a [question], did you want to say something?
SS: Could you identify yourself and speak loudly so we can tape it?
Mr. Ballinger: Why donít we trade places?
Unidentified speaker: Oh, thatís a good idea.
I think itís all relative to debate the merits of an organization that you want to be affiliated with, but I think that the senator [Carol Kunzel] who is sitting second from the last has a very good point. What is Columbiaís position on this and how can Columbia, with integrity unto itself as an institution, choose whatís best from this process and come out with a win/win alternative that is consistent with its focus? We as a university have a focus on human rights. We have a focus on labor. We have Eric Foner; we have Lou Henkin, who helped write the UN Declaration of Human Rights. There is a Friedman Conference today that is all about, are we as a country, as a nation, as a corporate entity measuring up to our own standards. Itís happening right now at the law school and everybody over there who is at the conference, of course, is concerned about this issue and yet they canít be here because theyíre doing the conference thing.
What I see happening isóIím in a union and I do activism around certain issues, including workersí compensation. I see people pushing around a lot of words to get what they want. And if you look at whatís happening when foxes guard a chickenhouse, you can hear a lot of words. You see it in New York State in workersí compensation. These are people who will say that a woman is not able to prove that she lost her leg even though her leg is gone. They say there is no prima facie evidence. You need to assess where your sources are coming from and what their vested interests are. So Iím not saying that the FLA doesnít have the best intentions, they might, but if this is about enforceability and responsibility and what theyíve actually been able to do, what the companies within them are actually able to do. Nike has been around for how long? Theyíre not here to re-write history. They themselves have not done anything to comply with a reasonable code of human rights activities.
If itís supposed to be a trickle-down from a monitoring process, I think Michael [Posner, Executive Director of FLA NGO affiliate] is amazingóhe teaches part-time at the Law School. I also know that we canít transplant him into the hearts and souls of Nike executives. Itís just not going to happen. If we could inoculate corporate America with the soul of Lou Henkin or Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, who actually sued Columbia University as a professor because they fired the maid and they didnít fire the janitor. They did it according to gender and not according to seniority. We would like to have those kinds of people in every corporation of America but you have to be realisticódo you or donít you?
So we can sit up here and talk but you have to look at whom you are affiliated with and whom you will be co-opted with. Are you being co-opted now? As University Senators? Youíre here to accept the facts brought to you before parties that are in various management positions. You need to do what Mahatma Gandhi did, which was, he believed that an arbitrator should bring together riven parties, and in order to understand that, they had to go and experience what both parties experience. So if you can go and experience what Maka Midora experienced and experience what Nike experiences: Who has the most to lose? The man with the mere job or the person that is making three [inaudible]? Thatís what Iíd like to say.
Dr. Litwak: Well, Iím not sure what conclusions you are reaching. Are you suggesting that just by virtue of affiliation with organizations like Nike, you just canít go anywhere because their interestsó?
Unidentified speaker: Iím thinking a third alternative, which is to affiliate with Nike if you need to, but you donít let yourself be, you donít let your opinion be purchased by it, if you can do that. And if you canít do that, then be clear about that. Can you do that?
Mr. Montas: So I guess the question thus, the presence of six companies on the board of the FLA compromise the principles of an institution that make it attractive, so that we should enjoin dealing with them. I guess thatís the question that weíre here trying to evaluate.
Unidentified speaker: I would say if those six companies allowed more independent monitoringóthe FLA is clear in what it allows but itís very, very controlled. Itís a process that can be outwitted, if you have the resources necessary. What the WRC is pointing out is that people who are there doing point-by-point access on a daily basis have found them to very incompatible with what they say. Can you get the FLA to incorporate things in a way thatís more receptive and more flexible? Because when you institute a process and you define what that process is then you can also come up with all kinds of remedies for it.
Ms. Abrams: Well, under the FLAís structure there is a certain percentage of factories that will be monitored whether Nike likes it or not. Additionally, anyone who brings evidence to the FLA about a factory that hasnít been monitored, then the FLA thinks that thatís credible evidence. Theyíre going to monitor. I donít know how see how you could think Nike really controls the monitors.
Unidentified speaker: Okay, let me go back to this particular example, where Nike sends out on their letterhead that weíre part of the FLA and this is what we are going to do. If thatís the kind of media issue that youíre dealing with, then let there be a clause in the FLA, if possible, that any media release sent by a company that is a member of the FLA should be retracted or repealed by the FLA, if necessary. That everything that refers to the FLA by a member of the FLA has to be passed through monitoring. Just make it responsive to the kinds of issues that are coming up through outside monitoring, thatís not controlled by this process itself.
Mr. Montas: If I understand what youíre saying correctly, Columbia doesnít have a clause in its by-laws that says that anything I say because I am a Columbia student represents the views of the University. And Iím not sure that anything that an individual member of the FLA board says needs to be explicitly qualified; nobody quite would want anyone to think that any particular member can speak for the whole board.
Unidentified speaker: I donít knowóbecause when you send something out on Columbia stationery, itís very carefully edited.
Mr. Montas: Right. Iím sure that anything sent out on the FLA stationery would not express the views of Nike.
Dr. Litwak: I think finally what the issue boils down to, is youíve got six people at the company, youíve got six NGOs, one of whom is Michael Posner, who everyoneóand the question is, who do you think is going to come out on top? I mean, why make the assumption that the company is going to come out on top and that this man is going to end up as a tool of the company?
Mr. Brown: Iíd love to have a report to the United States Senate that Sam Brown was a corporate tool [laughter], because the last time I was up for confirmation for something by the United States Senate, forty-seven members of the Senate voted against me because they thought I was too left-wing, so Iíd be happy if you could support me as a corporate tool and help me if I am ever appointed by the president of [inaudible] again.
Can I make a couple of observations about Nike specifically? I donít think Nike is a University licensee. At some other schools. I know that about three percent of their business is licensee business, of their total business, about three percent is licensee business, so I do know they have some licensees. But joining the WRC to try and fix Nike or Liz Claiborne who is, to the best of my knowledge, not a licensee, or Levis [Strauss] or Reebok or Adidas oróI mean it isnít going to happen. The WRC is not going to fix this vast inaudible]. Itís not going to fix the Tommy Hilfigers, itís not going to fix Polo, itís not going to fix the Gap jeans, itís not going to fix everything youíre [inaudible] right now.
The University doesnít fix everything youíre wearing right now. I donít see a single university-licensed garment in the room at the moment. Everything thatís worn is outside the WRC system, so if you want to fix the problems in a broad sense, you got to address the problems in a broad sense. When you do that you have to involve, youíve got to find some way to make this deal work and I agree with you, itís a very delicate balance at all times. I also want to make one comment, which is that there is a provision in the[FLA] charter about what can be communicated by companies about their participation. And if you see a violation of that, I would be very interested in seeing it and knowing about it, and I can assure you that it will not only be called to their attention but if theyíre in violation of the charter, it will be stopped. And itís quite specific.
Mr. Ballinger: So what are you saying, they canít say that "weíre a member of the Fair Labor Association"?
Mr. Brown: What they can say is, if in the event the board of directors approves their participation and external monitors [inaudible], then the company and the Association [FLA] may communicate with such a company to participate in the Associationís monitoring process. This company and Association may disclose the applicable brands for which the participating company is seeking certification. Thatís it. All they can say is "weíre participating." They get no seal of approval. They canít use a logo. They canít use a name brand. They canít say they are in compliance. They canít say anything else. They are a participating company until after the completion of the inculcation, that which is a two-year period. At the end of that, they either are or are not certified as being in compliance, and after that, they can say they are in compliance for the brands which they certify. So thatís the rule. So if they say, we are participating in the process, they can say they are participating, but it doesnít give them any right to say they are in compliance, if they use a name brand, if they use a logo, they use a trademark, nothing. That sort of thing. Itís quite careful language. And if theyíre in violation, [inaudible].
Mr. Ballinger: They said, "weíre members of the FLA, weíre the good guys, weíre on the White House panel." Thatís all theyíve said, they donít try to put their logo on anything, they donít need to.
Dr. Litwak: I think we have a [end of side one of tape]
Mr. Ballinger: [inaudible] They [University of Michigan] never joined [the WRC]. [Inaudible] Itís officially tentative, kind of like all the universities in the FLA. They all pay dues [inaudible]. I mean, itís important to keep the details straight. Michigan said it would never belong to the FLA. They said they would tentatively affiliate [with the WRC], and that they wanted to review it based on the April 7 meeting [WRC conference on April 7, 2000], is what they said. And to the best of my knowledge, they have neither officially affiliated nor paid any dues indicating that they are committed. Thatís my understanding. [Inaudible] But some have but not all. and when they donít. then they wonít be members. A lot of people have affiliated, a lot have responded.
[The remaining approximately fifteen minutes of the March 3, 2000, University Senate External Relations Committee Open Forum will be uploaded to the Senate website in the next few days.]