One of the University’s committees has illustrated an unusual responsiveness to protests that the Fair Labor Association does not act as an independent monitor of sweatshop conditions. The recommendation of the Senate Social Concerns Committee that the University become a member of the Workers’ Rights Consortium is encouraging evidence of the persuasiveness of concerned students and the existence of a responsive mechanism for change within the administration.
The committee’s recommendation to the University’s Fair Labor Task Force was unanimous. The recommendation occurred quickly after allegations that the FLA cannot act independently because of its affiliations with corporations. The association was just created in 1997, and only recently have concerns about its bias encouraged some schools — most notably Oberlin College in Ohio — to affiliate with the WRC.
While the turnout at a recent protest against FLA membership was not large, it was significant enough to illustrate many student concerns about the association. Although it has not been unusual for the University to respond to student complaints, the committee’s response is an unexpected delight, considering that sweatshop issues are not as popular here as elsewhere.