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Release: Oct. 17, 2001

UICHR grant brings total federal funding to more than $1 million

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State brings federal funding for research by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR) to more than $1 million. The State Department award will fund the Global Labor Sweatshop Research Initiative and follows on the heels of a $900,000 appropriation from the Department of Labor earlier this year for the creation of the Child Labor Research Initiative.

Burns Weston, a UI emeritus professor of law and Director of UICHR, said the two initiatives would collect details about working conditions for child and adult laborers worldwide, provide reports on sweatshops and child labor violations for government leaders, and work to educate students and the public about human rights violations in the workplaces of U.S. and other companies conducting business abroad.

The Global Labor Sweatshop Research Initiative funded by the State Department is a two-year study of the impact that selected voluntary codes of conduct have on eliminating sweatshop labor conditions in international work sites producing goods for the U.S. market. Weston said that he and a fellow researcher will travel to factories operated by companies that have signed codes of conduct indicating their intention to pay living wages and to provide safe and healthy working conditions among other improvements. Following the inspections, the UICHR will prepare a report for the State Department detailing the effectiveness of codes of conduct. The study will focus primarily on U.S. corporations that operate factories abroad, Weston said.

The Child Labor Research Initiative funded by the Labor Department, which was first announced in December, is just now getting underway following a delay in the release of funds, Weston said. This three-year project involves four primary tasks, including: collecting, translating, and establishing a database of national laws dealing with the worst forms of child labor; publishing a collection of essays on child labor issues pertinent to public and private policy-makers and decision-makers; developing a college-level course, secondary school modules, and a series of public education programs on child labor and related worker rights issues, the last in collaboration with the UI Labor Center and all to be shared nationally and worldwide; and hosting a conference on child labor issues and research in 2004.

Weston said the combination of projects gives the UICHR plenty of work to do as it continues its efforts and commitment to advancing economic, social, and cultural rights in the U.S. and abroad.

"It's daunting, but not impossible," he said, noting that his job would be much more difficult were it not for the assistance and support of many people. He noted especially Dorothy Paul, executive director of UICHR, and Gina McGee, the UI assistant director of sponsored programs who was instrumental in helping prepare the successful applications for funding.