Members of Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality
bombarded the office of University President Mary Sue Coleman with
between 80 and 100 calls yesterday in support of greater University
wage disclosure.

Laura Wong
LSA junior Mike Rozenfeld assists SOLE in its campaign for the disclosure of wages paid to workers of making University clothing by calling the office of University President Mary Sue Coleman. (ALI OLSEN/Daily)

During SOLE’s demonstration yesterday on the Diag and
Haven Hall, members offered their cell phones to students to call
Coleman in support of the campaign, which asks the University to
publicize the wages of workers in all factories that produce school
apparel.

“We’re asking for wage disclosure to get specific
wages from factories producing Michigan apparel to see if people
can get by on the wages being paid,” said SOLE member Michael
Lear, an Engineering junior.

The University’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and
Human Rights, which includes a member of SOLE, is planning to
discuss the proposal at its meeting today, University spokeswoman
Julie Peterson said.

Peterson said the committee typically reviews such proposals and
passes a recommendation before Coleman responds to them.

“We have a process for handling issues like this, and
it’s the Advisory Committee. And the Advisory Committee is
the process through which SOLE must go,” Peterson said.

She added that the committee most likely will not pass the
recommendation today, and that Coleman will not be present at the
meeting.

At the demonstration yesterday, seven members of SOLE gave out
literature and talked to passing students about sweatshop practices
and the need for wage disclosure. They represented the
demonstration with a large cardboard cut-out of factories and a
closed book attached to it. On the top were the words “Open
the book.”

SOLE member Marlowe Coolican sent out a written statement that
said a factory in Hermosa, El Salvador, pays their workers only 22
cents an hour to make Ohio State University sweatshirts. The same
factory also produces clothing apparel for the University of
Michigan.

Lear said the Code of Conduct for University of Michigan
Licensees contains a provision that workers producing clothing with
school logos must be able to live adequately on their wages. These
workers must be able to get by with enough food, housing and
education, as defined by World Health Organization standards.

“Licensees recognize that wages are the principal means of
meeting the basic needs of employees and their families, and
therefore commit themselves to a wage goal that enables employees
to satisfy these needs,” the University code states.

But Coolican, an LSA sophomore, said, “The language is in
the code, but there is no way to enforce it,”

SOLE is collaborating on this issue with students from the
University of Wisconsin, Indiana University and several other
schools.

Coolican said this issue is important for students because
everyone wears Michigan apparel. “We should be proud of our
school. I personally want to wear a Michigan shirt and not worry if
it was made in some sweatshop by children,” she said.

LSA senior Jason Fox said that until SOLE’s demonstration
for price disclosure he had been ignorant of any sweatshop
practices related to University-labeled clothing.

“If I would have known, I would not have bought so much
(University) apparel. It is really disturbing to know that that is
the case,” Fox said.

In addition to calling Coleman’s office, SOLE supporters
stopped by the Fleming Administration building yesterday and left
the large cardboard factory cut-out in Coleman’s office to
further illustrate their cause.

Peterson said SOLE members wrote a letter to Coleman on Feb. 10
outlining the wage disclosure proposal. She said Coleman responded
three days later, writing that the advisory committee would first
deal with the issue.

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