The Daily Cardinal
October 27, 2003
By Joe Uchill
Media Credit: Drew Huening/The Daily Cardinal
UW-Madison senior Tony Schultz unfurls a
Student Labor Action Coalition banner over Park Street.
With a licensing contract with Nike near certainty, the Student Labor Action Coalition has increased efforts to ensure all UW-Madison apparel are stitched by well-paid workers. SLAC hung a banner over Park Street Thursday saying "STOP SWEATSHOPS NOW." Tonight SLAC will hold a teach-in.
At issue is the code of conduct UW-Madison requires each apparel company to agree to before entering a contract. In past years, the code has forced businesses to disclose locations of factories where UW-Madison athletic equipment and consumer apparel are made and to require these factories to pay a living wage.
But the code never requires factories to report worker salaries, making it impossible to determine if a living wage is paid. Before Nike can make Badger products, SLAC requests UW-Madison extend the code of conduct to include a wage disclosure clause.
"Nike has been a huge human rights violator in the past. They have definitely been making improvements," SLAC member Liana Dalton said. "We think ... we have some leverage here."
These feelings are echoed by the Labor Licensing Policies Committee, the chancellor's advisors in licensing contracts. Jane Collins, LLPC member and professor of rural sociology will give a SLAC-sponsored talk at 7 p.m. in 1217 Humanities to discuss sweatshops and the importance of wage disclosure.
While LLPC supports amending the code, their wishes do not necessarily translate into the chancellor's actions. In 2000, in what Collins and Dalton call the most important recommendation the committee gave, the LLPC suggested the university switch independent inspectors from the corporation-founded Fair Labor Association to the more stringent Workers Rights Consortium.
When then-Chancellor David Ward rejected the committee's recommendations, students organized a sit-in in Bascom Hall.
While UW-Madison has not taken a public stance on wage disclosure, Chancellor John Wiley is sympathetic to aims of prior protesters.
"I was in absolute agreement with all of the goals of the students, but I was in absolute disagreement with their preferred method of dealing with us," he said.
"I don't anticipate we will need to go that far [as a sit-in], but we are trying to mobilize students to protest if we have to," explained Dalton.
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