April 27, 2006

Anti-Sweatshop Program Discussed at D.C. Meeting

Print More

After committing earlier this month to support the Designated Suppliers Program, Day Hall sent Mike Powers, director of operations for University communications and head of apparel licensing, to meet with 16 other university representatives at a conference to discuss a timeline for implementing the program.

The conference, held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., was designed to facilitate discussion between school administrators, members of United Students Against Sweatshops, and the Workers Rights Consortium – the sponsor of the Designated Suppliers Program – and resulted in the formation of a working group comprised of administrators and two USAS members.

According to Powers, the conference was successful in facilitating discussion of the common concerns put forth by the different universities, as well as formulation for a concrete plan to move forward with the program.

“The conference was the first time that representatives of schools that have responded to the DSP and members of USAS have sat down together, I thought it was a really big step forward,” he said.

Cornell’s chapter of USAS also sent two students to participate at the conference, Jordan Wells ’07 and Marlene Ramos ’09.

All parties agree that the major problem to be resolved before any orders can be placed is convincing brands and licenses to cooperate with the program and place orders with the designated factories.

Wells thought the conference was a very positive step in achieving this goal, but emphasized the importance of moving fast in order to secure necessary contracts before the coming school year. He was disappointed that “we didn’t get a firm commitment from any of the schools that they were definitely going to call the licensees and ask them to begin sourcing from these [designated] factories.”

Powers also emphasized the problem of dealing with the licenses.

“That’s going to be the next step,” he said. “These are businesses and very bottom-line driven.”

Although impressed with the logistical work done by the WRC and USAS regarding the DSP program, “I brought up at the meeting Friday that [the working group] is really not analyzing [the DSP] from the dollar point of view,” Powers added. “Everyone agrees to the goals of the DSP, and there is no question we don’t want to be associated with [sweatshop] activity, but there needs to be more work in analyzing business factors.”

Recently, students at the University of Colorado have received national press coverage over a hunger strike undertaken in an attempt to force their administrators to support the Designated Suppliers Program.

Although Powers has had no direct contact with anyone in the CU administration, he did speak to a Colorado student at the conference and offered to help consult with the CU administrators if asked.

Although Wells and Ramos both are pleased with the steps taken by Cornell to participate in the conference and work with other schools to support the program, they agree that more schools need to sign on in order to make the plan feasible.

“[Powers] has been cooperative in terms of evaluating the policy in a fair way,” Wells said. “But we would like to see Mike and other Cornell administrators do some of the active work that is involved in making this happen like asking other schools to sign on to the program.”

Archived article by Scott Rosenthal
Sun Staff Writer