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Release: Dec. 19, 2000

UI Center for Human Rights gets $900,000 in federal funding

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Through congressional support led by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR) will receive $900,000 in federal funding to establish a UICHR Child Labor Research Initiative (CLRI), a beginning step toward university-based research on abusive and exploitative child labor. Congress approved the funding in the final version of the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill last Friday.

The CLRI is designed for the UICHR to take a leadership role in research on abusive and exploitative child labor. The UICHR will develop a comprehensive research agenda of child labor and related worker rights issues, gather and systematize essential information, commission research among scholars and others, distill and disseminate research findings, and advise the U.S. Department of State and other policymakers on the research done.

In related legislative action and support from Harkin, Congress approved a $1 million competitive grant program that would promote college student and faculty awareness and involvement in the fight to end child labor and exploitative sweatshops around the world. The UICHR has applied to receive $500,000 of the grant money to establish an abusive and exploitative child labor monitoring program, a move that is supported by the UI's International Programs, with which the UICHR is affiliated.

Funding for the creation of CLRI is significant not only in terms of its monetary value, but, more importantly, for the lives of the more than 250 million children it will likely help improve, says Burns Weston, director of the UICHR and professor emeritus, UI College of Law.

"Our concern is with those children who have a slim chance of ever seeing the inside of a classroom -- despite many national and international efforts to curb child labor and related employment practices; this initiative is intended to help," Weston said.

"The $900,000 grant will help human rights proponents gather information fundamental to developing a child labor research agenda and related worker rights issues. Scholars from the UI and throughout the world will be involved, as will others from government, human rights NGOs, labor unions, business enterprises, and faith-based organizations. It is a broad-based initiative that we hope will help stem the number of children ages five to 14 who work in virtual slavery for little or no pay," Weston said.

The $500,000 grant, if realized by the UICHR, will come from the U.S. Department of Labor and would help the UICHR establish a Child Labor Field Monitoring and Reporting Initiative (CLFMRI). Over a three-year period, the CLFMR would recruit, train and deploy qualified college and university students and faculty to serve as independent monitors and reporters of child labor and worker rights violations regarding the manufacture and supply of collegiate licensed apparel at the institutions where the students and faculty study and teach.

"Students, faculty and staff across the UI campus and throughout the Big Ten will benefit in many ways from these networking initiatives," Weston said.

Earlier this year, UI President Mary Sue Coleman approved a code of conduct outlining strict guidelines that applies to all UI trademark licensees. The document specifies the working conditions manufacturers must provide in order to earn or maintain the right to a UI license, and requires all UI licensees to "conduct business in such a way that the university will not benefit from the gross exploitation of U.S. or international labor."

"This infusion of federal funds creates enormous potential in helping stop the exploitation and abuse in child labor in the global economy, said Steven Hoch, associate provost and dean of University of Iowa International Programs.

"I applaud Professor Weston and his colleagues at the UI Center for Human Rights who worked diligently to secure these funds to support research and humanitarian efforts to address this global concern," Hoch said.

Centrally involved in developing these initiatives and deserving many thanks, Weston said, are Dorothy Paul, executive director of the UICHR; Gina McGee, assistant director of Sponsored Programs; and Elizabeth Constantine, grants officer for International Programs.

"It has been and will continue to be a superb team effort," Weston said.

For more information about the Center contact the staff at (319) 335-3900 or via e-mail at or visit the Center's Web site at