Your favorite Michigan sweatshirt is warm, comfortable —
and could be made by underpaid factory workers. The same goes for
your Rose Bowl T-shirt, your hockey hat and your NCAA jersey.

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman will address
this issue Friday after hearing the final recommendation of the
University’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human
Rights, when she will decide if the University will require
companies that manufacture University apparel to disclose of
workers’ wages.

Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality is fighting
to mandate wage disclosure in the Code of Conduct for University of
Michigan Licensees. SOLE initiated the push for wage disclosure in
a letter sent to Coleman last month. The letter states that
monitoring corporations’ compliance with the code’s
current compensation clause is difficult without awareness of
workers’ wages.

The current clause requires that earnings meet the legal
minimum-wage standards or industry averages, whichever is greater.
SOLE’s plea prompted Coleman to request a review of the issue
by the advisory committee, her faculty and student advisory body on
such matters.

“We want fair wages for workers, and wage disclosure is
the key to that,” said SOLE member and LSA senior Mike
Swiryn, who participated in a rally at the University for corporate
transparency on March 11.

As part of the rally, SOLE members flooded the
administration’s office with calls throughout the day,
demonstrating their commitment to “holding corporations
responsible for their part in the global community,” said LSA
junior Kristin McRay, a member of SOLE and the advisory
committee.

The committee, which assessed the “complex issue”
for the first time March 12, decided it was premature to devise a
process to implement wage disclosure in the code of conduct,
chairwoman Sioban Harlow said.

“The committee is looking at how to evaluate the
feasibility of wage disclosure and formulate
recommendations,” she said.

Harlow said this requires more information from groups such as
the Workers’ Rights Consortium and the Fair Labor
Association, two independent watchdog organizations.

University spokeswoman Julie Peterson could not comment on
whether the University would terminate its contract with licensees
who refuse to publish their wages.

“The committee must first recommend a course of action,
and to do that, they need to have a full understanding of the
issue,” she said.

At its heart, SOLE members said, the issue is one of workers not
being paid enough to provide for their basic needs. “One of
the first things workers talk about is wages. They are central to
the workers who produce college apparel,” Swiryn said.

The press release announcing the March 11 demonstration quoted a
worker from a Nike supplier factory in Indonesia: “We work
until we are tired to the bone but (the minimum monthly wage) is
not enough to cover even our basic needs.”

Nike manufactures apparel for 30 schools including the
University and has a collegiate apparel licensed business estimated
at an annual $2.5 billion. Katelyn Morris, senior manager of Global
Issues Management, maintains that Nike is committed to corporate
transparency.

“There is no ignoring the fact that wage disclosure is
important. Nike knows (corporate transparency) matters to college
campuses, and we have already taken steps down that route,”
she said, citing Nike’s cooperation with the FLA, which
regularly posts the company’s audit results on its website.
Though no comprehensive list of figures is available, the website
posts documents that supply information about each supplier factory
and logs violations of the FLA’s code of conduct. The website
also includes actions the offending corporation took to remedy code
violations.

Morris said it is unknown whether a decision by the University
to require wage disclosure would affect the collegiate apparel
industry.

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