April 28, 2000
Report from Columbia’s Delegation on the Worker Rights Consortium Founding Conference
April 7, 2000, Judson Memorial Church, New York City
The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) founding conference succeeded in gathering students and university and college administrators from forty-three member schools, with representatives from NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in a well-organized forum. The conference held open discussions about the issues of WRC governance, operations, and goals of future meetings.
Five working groups were formed to discuss governance and by-laws (e.g., the structure of the WRC governing board and corporate involvement); staffing and administration (e.g., getting the organization fully operational); data consolidation; networking (e.g., improved communication among members); and broad-based disclosure. These groups will make proposals to the governing board, which is to hold its initial meeting in June 2000.
The process of resolving these issues is challenging, especially in the context of WRC’s timely, imperative mandate of actually verifying the implementation of university and college codes of conduct.
The proposed makeup of the governing board was examined. The board would be made up of 6 Advisory Council/NGO representatives; 3 USAS (United Students Against Sweatshops) students; and 3 administrators.
Other proposals were for a 6/4/4 or a 6/6/6 split. Some, including Columbia SEAS university senator Brian London, the other student delegate, who is not a member of Columbia’s USAS affiliate (CSAS), have emphasized the need for representation of non-USAS students. It is important to note that the WRC vision is for a cooperative governing board that operates primarily by consensus.
The planned election of administrators to the governing board did not take place, because of the complexity of the issues and the conference’s time limits. A meeting of administrators from the member schools has been planned for April 28, 2000, in Chicago.
Perhaps the widest disagreement at the conference was in the area of corporate involvement. The original vision of the WRC was to create a truly independent monitoring system, free of any corporate influence, although monitoring obviously does not preclude, and in fact requires, communication with manufacturers. Some delegates, primarily administrators, see a need for greater interaction between the WRC and manufacturers.
Bob Moskovitz, executive director of Columbia Business Services and active participant in the Senate External Relations Committee, volunteered for a working group to help to determine the relationship between licensees and the WRC. Bob and Larry Carr from Brown University, both administrators in charge of licensee management, will be able to give input on the practical intricacies of licensing in this group.
The WRC now needs to hire an executive director and staff, establish a budget, formally incorporate, and resolve other logistics.
As a beginning step toward the establishment of communication between member schools and the WRC, a compilation of data for a comprehensive listserv was initiated at the conference.
Having participated in the WRC founding conference on April 7, 2000, the Columbia delegation unanimously agrees there are compelling reasons to move forward with Columbia’s involvement in the WRC. The External Relations Committee unanimously supports this recommendation.
Michael Castleman(CSAS member; External Relations Subcommittee on Sweatshops member)
Brian London(SEAS student university senator; External Relations Committee member)
Alan Stone(Vice President, Public Affairs; External Relations Committee member)
Bob Moskovitz(Executive Director, Business Services; External Relations Committee standing guest)