from The Daily Cardinal

Pay disclosure decision nears
University adds Nike as one of many licensees

By Emily Winter

Published: Friday, January 16, 2004

After a semester of rallies and call-ins, the Student Labor Action Coalition will get an answer Friday from Chancellor John Wiley about whether UW-Madison will require worker wage disclosure of its 450 licensees.

Using past Nike worker-abuse cases as an example, the UW-Madison student group, SLAC, spent last semester pushing for the university to negotiate with product licensees for wage disclosure.

In November, UW-Madison added Nike as a licensee. University officials noted the new Nike contract has nothing to do with whether the university will adopt the disclosure plan, which the university Labor Licensing Committee recommended to Wiley.

Now, the LLC awaits Wiley's response, which he will announce at an LLC meeting Friday, Jan. 23, according to LaMarr Billups, special assistant to the chancellor and convener of the committee of faculty, staff and students.

Though he would not reveal Wiley's decision, Billups said Wiley has a positive attitude toward negotiating wage disclosure, though it is under consideration at only one other university in the nation, Indiana University.

"We see it as reasonable," Billups said. "But there's a lot of stuff that needs to be considered."

If the plan goes through, UW-Madison must find a way to hold all licensees responsible for disclosing wages of workers from 3,323 factories in 47 countries four times per year, Trademark Licensing Director Cindy Van Matre said.

Van Matre said this presents the problem of tabulating wages when payment methods, currency, overtime work and language differ by location.

An group called the Workers Rights Consortium, which monitors the treatment of laborers in factories, would be responsible for the massive and costly task.

The WRC already receives approximately $13,000 annually from UW-Madison to ensure factories are abiding by the other labor codes already present in contracts with all licensees. The contracts gives the WRC authorization to monitor factories, ensure workers get paid their countries' minimum wage and overtime compensation, protect laborers' right to organize, and restrict child labor and discrimination, among other powers.

Even without wage disclosure, Van Matre said contracts are stricter than those not affiliated with a university.

"The most socially responsible products anyone can buy are college products," she said.

Van Matre said she is skeptical about whether wage disclosure is worth the effort because current codes already allow the WRC access to wages, and factory owners may not report the truth if disclosure is their responsibility.

But SLAC member Samantha Ashley said she disagrees.

"There are strict policies in place, but ... it's very hard to enforce those things unless we have information about what the workers are actually making," Ashley said. "You can tell companies that they have to comply with a code of conduct, but unless you make them do it, they're not going to do it."

SLAC index page

Anti-sweatshop/wage disclosure page

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