February 17, 2011

Students Lobby Against Fair Labor Association

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Cornell Organization for Labor Action and Cornell Students Against Sweatshops are asking for President Skorton to cut ties with the Fair Labor Association after concerns about conflicts of interest.

The Cornell Organization for Labor Action and Cornell Students Against Sweatshops delivered a message to President David Skorton Wednesday urging the University to cut ties with the Fair Labor Association, a nonprofit monitor for worldwide labor conditions.

According to CSAS President Alex Bores ’13, the FLA is funded by corporations, conflicting with its mission to find instances of labor abuses. Bores said that the FLA has covered up many cases of workers’ rights violations.

“Cornell should not be paying an organization that does nothing to promote our school’s goals of making sure everyone is treated fairly,” Bores stated in an e-mail. “Until the FLA begins actually holding companies accountable for their violations of our code-of-conduct and of workers’ basic rights, Cornell should disaffiliate.”

Following a letter of demands by CSAS to Skorton in October 2010, the administration responded in January, saying it would not disaffiliate immediately with the FLA, according to Gleb Drobkov ’12, president of CSAS.

In a letter on Jan. 17, Skorton wrote that he was “unwilling to end a longstanding relationship without a dialogue with the FLA.”

According to Rachael Blumenthal ’13, vice president of CSAS, her organization hopes to continue affiliating solely with the Worker Rights Consortium, an organization created by United Students Against Sweatshops that operates independently of corporations such as Russell, Nike and Adidas.

Similar movements at other universities have been in close contact with CSAS regarding students’ collective efforts in the nationwide “Don’t Pay the FLA” campaign, CSAS member Molly Beckhardt ’14 said. Along with other schools, CSAS plans to support Rutgers University at a meeting with Auret van Heerden, CEO of FLA, during his visit to Rutgers on Feb. 25, Beckhardt said.

“A lot of [the other universities] are hesitant to be the first to disaffiliate with the FLA. [We want] Cornell can take this on and tell the FLA that we mean business or else we will not support them,” Blumenthal said.

CSAS and COLA are currently working to bring van Heerden to Cornell in March to continue the dialogue with Skorton. The meeting was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was cancelled.

The message that CSAS and COLA delivered Wednesday was a mock Valentine’s Day card proportedly from Nike to the FLA. The card satirized the FLA’s relationship with corporate interests.

Original Author: Cindy Huynh