The University announced yesterday that it will continue to support the Fair Labor Association’s (FLA) efforts to use locally-based organizations to monitor working conditions in apparel factories in third-world countries.
The FLA was created in 1999. Its board includes human rights organizations and 152 universities nation-wide. It also includes six apparel corporations, including Adidas, Levi Strauss and Co., Nike and Reebok. Cornell joined the FLA soon after it was formed.
“Thanks to the efforts of students at Cornell who … raised our awareness of the inhumane conditions forced on many workers in the global apparel industry, Cornell has been a leader in the movement to improve working conditions,” said President Hunter R. Rawlings III.
One of the major concerns of United Students Against Sweatshops — drawing particular scrutiny upon the FLA — has been that factories be monitored by organizations on the ground, with members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in other countries trained to monitor the factories in their areas. This would be opposed to what some people see as the current trend of outside corporations conducting the monitoring.
“The FLA is starting to go in the right direction,” said David Unger ’02, president of Cornell Students Against Sweatshops (CSAS).
“There are still fundamental problems. The University has yet to address the FLA’s corporate control,” Unger added.
More than a year ago, the FLA began to develop a training model for NGOs in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Taiwan. Cornell was one of the 22 universities funding the project, and has pledged to support the program again this year.
Cornell also joined the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) last year, which claims 74 universities as members. The WRC was founded last July and corporations are not represented on its board.
“The WRC is the superior plan to end sweatshops,” Unger said.
According to Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations, the FLA is better organized than the WRC.
“People pay attention to what the FLA is doing,” Dullea said. “They started earlier.”
However, he said, “they’re not mutually exclusive. Both organizations are attempting to have an impact on this situation.”
Unger was hopeful that the FLA’s efforts would affect some change and ultimately lead to a better monitoring of factories that manufacture university apparel.
“If this really helps groups on the ground to check factories, that will be a good thing, since the WRC may use some of those same [NGOs],” Unger said.
Archived article by Maggie Frank