After months of pressure from Students
Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality, University President
Mary Sue Coleman held a meeting on Monday with the
University’s executive officers about whether to adopt a
recommendation by the advisory Committee on Labor Standards and
Human Rights to implement a wage disclosure system. If adopted,
wage disclosure would insert a clause into the University’s
liscencing contract that would instruct all producers of University
apparel to make their workers’ wages public knowledge. SOLE,
which has fought since February to get this initiative passed, will
attempt to meet with Coleman following today’s advisory
committee meeting. After stalling and delaying the issue in
committee, Coleman should meet with SOLE and seriously consider
announcing a decision to accept the advisory committee’s
suggestions.

Beth Dykstra

Beyond affirming wage disclosure, the advisory committee
subsequently recommended concrete policy solutions. They state that
a discussion should take place with the Collegiate Licensing
Company, the Worker Rights Consortium and the Fair Labor
Association to find the best systematic means of collecting wage
data and controlling noncompliant licensees. SOLE has also issued
additional requests — it wants the University to implement a
code of conduct in every licensing contract, as well as disclose
the name and location of every factory where University clothing is
made. By putting factories and factory owners in the spotlight,
SOLE hopes to force companies to re-think wage standards. By
demanding disclosure, SOLE hopes to have another weapon in the
fight against sweatshop labor. While this might pose a threat to
corporations, if they are truly paying their workers a fair wage,
they should have no problem disclosing such information.

Coleman should not hesitate to approve the committee’s
plan. Wage disclosure, despite manufacturers’ tenacious
opposition, is not a radical idea. It simply aims to create more
transparency in University contracts, ensuring that the University
does not tacitly condone sweatshop labor practices.

SOLE’s past efforts have proven that student activism can
be incredibly effective. It was SOLE that forced the University to
end any future relations with Morgan Linen Services and SOLE that
forced manufacturing behemoths such as Nike to disclose factory
locations. The group is holding an event today outside the Fleming
Administration Building to encourage Coleman to support the wage
disclosure proposal. Coleman should take heed and agree to adopt
the suggestions of the Labor Standards and Human Rights
committee.

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