University of Iowa News Release
April 21, 2005
UI Seeks Continued Worker Protection In Hawk Apparel Manufacture
The University of Iowa is urging suppliers of products bearing university logos to purchase those products from factories that honor workers' rights, despite the recent expiration of an international worker protection accord.
The accord, the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA), was a system of quotas governing worldwide production of textiles and garments. The MFA had been credited with providing a competitive advantage that allowed countries to develop textile and garment industries free from the full competition from potential low-cost producers such as China. However, the MFA expired Dec. 31, 2004, and many analysts predict that companies will produce more textiles and garments in places where labor is relatively cheaper, instead of in Latin American, South American or African factories. Recent news reports indicate that shift has begun.
In response, the non-governmental organization Workers Rights Consortium issued a number of recommendations to American universities suggesting how they can respond to the expiration of the MFA (http://www.workersrights.org/Policy_MFA_Phase-Out.pdf).
In response, UI President David Skorton has directed the university's Licensing Program Office to notify suppliers of products with UI logos that the UI will pursue many of the options recommended to help protect workers. He noted the university's Licensee Code of Conduct outlines preferable working conditions for workers making those products.
"We urge licensees to continue to place orders from factories that have improved working conditions and not abandon those workers simply for lower-cost labor elsewhere," Skorton said. Among those WRC recommendations the university intends to pursue are:
--the university will again remind its licensees of their obligation to ensure full compliance with its licensee code of conduct, wherever the production occurs;
--if suppliers purchase their products from factories in countries with lower labor costs, the university will expect those suppliers to explain what steps they have in place to meet worker needs, again referencing the Licensee Code of Conduct;
--if existing factories should cease operation as a result of production shifts to other countries, the university will ask its licensees to work to ensure employees receive all mandated benefits, including notice and severance benefits.
"The concern is that a shift of production to countries with lower costs of labor following phase-out of the MFA will make enforcement of the university's Licensee Code of Conduct more difficult," said Lon Moeller, a professor in the Tippie College of Business who chaired the committee that drafted the University's Code of Conduct.
Dale Arens, UI trademark licensing director, says the licensing program office currently asks licensees to disclose information about the location of factories producing goods featuring the UI logo. In addition to being affiliated with the WRC, which investigates complaints of failure to comply with university codes of conduct, the UI is a member of the Fair Labor Association, which monitors apparel factory conditions for key apparel licensees.
Licensed products are those using such trademarked UI identifiers as the term "University of Iowa," the Old Capitol dome logo, or the Tigerhawk athletic logo.
STORY SOURCE: University Relations, 101 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1000.
MEDIA CONTACT: Steve Parrott, email@example.com, phone 319-335-0552, cell 319-530-6972. Writer: Tom Snee.