September 5, 2000

CSAS Retools

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Cornell Students Against Sweatshops (CSAS), the student organization that advocated the University administration’s decision to join the Worker’s Rights Consortium (WRC) last year, now plans to turn from activism to education.

CSAS plans to bring sweatshop workers and other educational speakers to campus to humanize the issue of sweatshop labor. The organization’s agenda differs from the confrontational activism the group has demonstrated in the past.

“We [accomplished] our goal of getting into the WRC,” said Leslie Barkemeyer ’03, treasurer of CSAS. “This year we’re going to work to keep up awareness of the issue [of sweatshop labor] and act as an educational tool.”

As CSAS prepares for a year of raising awareness about the sweatshop issue, last year’s WRC/FLA controversy has moved to the back burner.

“We’re going to fight [the University’s membrship in] the FLA, but I don’t know how far we’re going to push that,” said David Unger ’02, president of CSAS. “This year is about consciousness raising. We want to put a face on the issue and make it something people have to take responsibility for.”

Last year after several CSAS protests and meetings with CSAS, the University administration joined the WRC while retaining its membership in the Fair Labor Association (FLA). Both the WRC and the FLA monitor the factories which produce University apparel.

Since its first meeting in New York City last April, the fledgling WRC has undergone a structural re-organization. Originally the WRC’s governing board was to consist of six representatives from the Advisory Council, three from the United Students Against Sweatshops and three from member schools. The new structure will give each of these groups exactly five representatives on the board.

“The WRC … is in the process of reforming its board,” said Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University Relations. “[The WRC] decided the board needed to be changed to give more representation to both students and institutions.”

While CSAS has announced that they still oppose the University’s membership in the FLA, Dullea justified the University’s decision to maintain membership in both organizations.

“The WRC is still in its initial stages,” Dullea said. “The FLA has a strong program in development. It has strong guidlines and an array of human rights organizations and companies helping them gain access to factories. [The two organizations] have different approaches, but the objective is the same.”

Members of CSAS consider the WRC more sound than the FLA, because it does not allow clothing manufacturers to take part in the monitoring process. Cornell will reevaluate the WRC by December 2001, allowing the organization time to develop.

Archived article by Aaron Reisner