Q. What is the University’s policy regarding the manufacture of university-licensed hats, t-shirts and other apparel?
A. The U-M is committed to fair and lawful labor practices in the manufacture of university-licensed goods. On February 16, 2001, U-M adopted a strong Code of Conduct for Licensees that sets forth labor standards for the manufacture of licensed products. The code of conduct was designed to improve labor conditions for apparel industry workers and addresses key issues such as forced labor, child labor, harassment or abuse of employees, nondiscrimination, health and safety, women’s rights, freedom of association and collective bargaining, hours of work and overtime, and compensation. The U-M code has been included in all licensing contracts signed after February 16, 2001.
In addition, the President’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights, (ACLSHR) a student-faculty-staff committee, develops and implements procedures for fact-finding and recommendations for University actions when complaints are received concerning violations of the University’s code of conduct.
The University of Michigan is a member of both the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), two groups dedicated to monitoring and enforcement of codes of conduct.
Q. Why has U-M not adopted the United Students Against Sweatshops’ (USAS) Designated Suppliers Program (DSP) proposal for the manufacture of university-licensed goods?
A. The ACLSHR carefully reviewed the DSP proposal when it was introduced by Students Organized for Labor and Economic Equality (SOLE) in late 2005. Since then, the committee has continued to study the proposal and recommended in April 2006 and again on April 16, 2007 that U-M not endorse the DSP idea because of issues regarding its overall approach and basic questions about its feasibility. The University is concerned that moving to the DSP’s highly regulated, rules-based system is not workable and could lead to unintended and negative consequences for apparel workers, such as the closing of factories, loss of jobs for apparel workers and disruption of positive working relationships.
Q. Did the President accept the ACLSHR recommendation?
A. Yes. In accepting the ACLSHR’s recommendation regarding the DSP in 2006, President Mary Sue Coleman charged the committee to monitor the development of the DSP idea and to enhance the effectiveness of U-M’s code of conduct by making adherence to the code more integral to the licensing process. A report to the President was presented on April 16, 2007. The President’s response is anticipated before the end of April.
Q. Are the ACLSHR reports available to the public?
A. Yes. The full text of the ACLSHR report and recommendations are available at the ACLSHR Web site: http://www.ilir.umich.edu/CoLSHR. The April 16, 2007 report will be posted soon.
Q. What other measures did the ACLSHR recommend to President Coleman in its April 2007 report?
A. In addition to the recommendation not to endorse the DSP idea, the ACLSHR report included several recommendations that would enhance monitoring and enforcement of the code of conduct. The committee recommended that the University change its licensing procedures to require licensees to document how they monitor the code of conduct as a condition for renewal or a new licensing agreement. Requiring licensees to document how they monitor the code reinforces the importance of compliance and mandates explicit attention to meeting this contractual obligation.
The ACLSHR also recommended that the University use the information system developed by the FLA to collect information about the actions and capacity of licensees to monitor the code of conduct in their facilities and those of their suppliers. The FLA’s online system, to be piloted in summer 2007, will query companies about the nature of their factory sourcing relationships, their social responsibility and labor compliance program, and how these compliance efforts are implemented at the factory level.
Q. Has President Coleman accepted the ACLSHR’s recommendation?
A. The President’s response is anticipated before the end of April 2007.
Q. As of March 2007, 30 other colleges and universities, including 10 that are part of the University of California system, endorsed the DSP. What is the practical implication of these endorsements?
A. Some of the schools characterize their endorsement as supporting the underlying rationale or the principles behind the DSP. For schools without a licensing program—about half of those that signed on—the practical implications of their endorsement is unclear.