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Release: March 1, 2000

UI Center for Human Rights urges UI to join Workers Rights Consortium

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The executive council of the newly formed University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR) unanimously adopted a resolution this week urging the UI to withdraw its membership from the Fair Labor Association (FLA) in favor of the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC). Both organizations work to improve conditions for collegiate apparel factory laborers and guard against sweatshop labor.

Last week members of the UI administration and members of the UI Students Against Sweatshops met at a UICHR moderated forum that allowed UI administrators to hear the views of others who favor the WRC. Some are critical of the FLA, citing lax enforcement guidelines used to inspect factories that produce collegiate licensed apparel. The FLA has 131 colleges and universities among its members. Others say, the WRC, recently created by students, would be a tougher enforcer. No official UI position was taken at the meeting.

Both Ann Rhodes, vice president for university relations, and Phillip Jones, vice president for student services, attended the forum. Both said the UI would consider its options and would wait before suggesting the UI change its affiliation.

Burns Weston, director, UICHR and College of Law professor emeritus, said the organization drew up its four-point resolution after "compelling arguments" made by SAS representatives, "members of the Iowa City community, and after making its own individual and joint considerations."

The UICHR urged without delay that: The UI withdraw from the FLA because the "FLA's pro-corporate bias makes it inherently unable to be a powerful advocate for ending the sweatshop conditions in which UI apparel is currently manufactured;

The UI join the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) so that the UI may give greater weight and credibility," to the organization which is "committed to making effective the human rights principles for which the UI stands, and that, in so doing, the UI assume a leadership role in the WRC."

The resolution thirdly states the "University of Iowa administration search for and adopt complementary additional strategies to promote workers rights in the global workplace." Lastly, that the UI "continue to consult with concerned groups such as Students Against Sweatshops, Human Rights Iowa City, the UI Center for Human Rights, and others that have shown commitment to these issues."

"By taking these actions, we believe that the University of Iowa will be able to build upon, and add to, its long history of leadership in promoting and protecting human rights."

The UICHR, created in 1999, is designed to consider, constructively and critically, the problems and prospects of human rights at home and abroad, now and in the future. The organization was created after the year-long UI celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, heralded with the 1998 program, Global Focus: Human Rights '98.