New Group Forms to Improve Conditions for Workers Who Make College Apparel


Representatives of 30 colleges met this weekend at the University of Notre Dame to establish the latest in a string of new organizations dedicated to improving conditions for workers who manufacture apparel carrying college logos. The Collegiate Living Wage Association, as it is called, aims not to compete with existing anti-sweatshop groups, but to inform them, one of its leaders said.p. According to Todd D. Whitmore, an associate professor of theology at Notre Dame and the conference organizer, the new group plans to provide information that could be useful to the Fair Labor Association and the Worker Rights Consortium, each of which is less than two years old.p. “What [the living-wage association] adds is precisely what colleges and universities do best in addition to teaching, and that’s research,” he said. Three of the five tasks that attendees at the meeting agreed to try to accomplish involve performing studies on the living wage, developing definitions of and formulas to measure the living wage, and investigating the pros and cons of various strategies to put in place living wages.p. “The research could be made available to whoever wants to make use of it,” Mr. Whitmore said. Representatives of the Fair Labor Association and Worker Rights Consortium attended the conference and “spoke well of the possibilities” of future collaboration, he said.p. The other two tasks the new organization set for itself were “to facilitate implementation of living-wage initiatives by colleges, universities, and other parties” and “to evaluate the actual consequences of these initiatives.”p. The living-wage association currently has no headquarters and no staff; a committee has been chosen to look for a home for the organization and to work out the financing and structure of the group before a second meeting in the fall. Mr. Whitmore said the group’s officials hope to keep “bureaucratic structure sufficiently minimal to make membership available for all colleges and universities,” and to ensure that colleges’ decisions about whether to join the group are “based upon the substance of what we’re doing rather than having cost be a barrier.”

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