from The Badger Herald

Monday, April 4, 2005

LLPC sets up mock sweatshop

by Natalie Rhoads

LLPC sets up mock sweatshop

AJ MACLEAN/Herald photo

University of Wisconsin’s Labor Licensing Policy Committee set up mock sweatshops in front of Chancellor John Wiley’s office Friday in an attempt to protest what the group calls Wiley’s refusal to do everything in his power to end sweatshop practice in UW licensee factories.

Wiley said because the multi-fiber agreement, which named the countries in which companies are allowed to have factories, expired, the LLPC wanted him to send a letter they had drafted to all of UW’s licensees. A letter, according to Wiley, that demands several things.

“It’s not my style to write that kind of letter,” Wiley said, “and furthermore, I never just sign something someone else wrote.”

Wiley said he believes the LLPC was upset because he had rewritten the letter that was sent to licensees and the committee did not think it was tough enough.

“It does no good to demand things that we know can’t be done or that they won’t do because we’ve already been in lengthy negotiations with them,” Wiley said.

UW is doing everything it can to make progress regarding sweatshop conditions, Wiley added.

“I believe I am as outraged by sweatshops as anyone who has ever protested in the chancellor’s office,” Wiley said.

Wiley also defended an earlier agreement made with adidas, which, according to Goetsch, upset the LLPC because the company is not required to make its records public ρρ something adidas does in order to keep its operations private from its competitors.

However, Wiley and other select UW administration are allowed to freely look at adidas’ records. Wiley said UW owns the rights to the best agreement with adidas, more so than any other university.

“There is no university in the country, nor organization that I know of in the country, that has access to their records like we do,” Wiley said.

The conflict between the LLPC and Wiley has been ongoing but heated up last week due to a letter that was delivered to committee members at their monthly meeting March 28. Members said the letter was “hostile” and undermined all of the work they have completed this semester.

According to Special Assistant to the Chancellor LaMarr Billups, the letter informed LLPC members of their duty as an advisory group. Billups said the committee’s advice is not the only advice the chancellor receives regarding labor licensing. The group may have been angry that the chancellor did not follow its suggestions, he added.

LLPC member Alison Goetsch said the “harsh” letter made the committee feel it is being left out of the decision-making process.

“He made it seem like we have almost no role whatsoever,” Goetsch said.

She added the committee understands it is only an advisory committee, but its suggestions seem to hold less importance than those of other groups.

“We want to be involved at all points of the process so we can offer our advice,” Goetsch said.

According to Goetsch, the committee is planning on meeting with Wiley in late April, where she said the group hopes Wiley will listen to its concerns.

“He hasn’t been very willing to speak with us about these problems [in the past],” Goetsch said.

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