Notre Dame to hire firm to check for sweatshop labor

by Associated Press

Two years ago, Notre Dame became one of the first colleges to ban licensees from using sweatshop labor.
p. Now it wants to put some teeth into those policies.p. The school announced Monday it will hire an international accounting firm to police manufacturing sites that produce merchandise bearing its trademark, ensuring they comply with its anti-sweatshop policies.p. “It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s mission-driven behavior for a Catholic university like Notre Dame,” said associate vice president and counsel William Hoye, who believes Notre Dame is the first school to develop such a monitoring system.p. Sweatshop labor has been a hot topic on college campuses over the past year. Student protests prompted a task force of university representatives and the Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Co. in January to draft a conduct code requiring licensed manufacturers to comply or be shut out of the estimated $2.5 billion-a -year college-license retail business.p. The draft code would ban child labor, forced labor, abuse and harassment in the workplace, and also limit working hours and require safe and healthy work environments. Notre Dame’s 1997 regulations for university licensees includes similar bans, but it has an independent licensing agent that is not part of the effort, Hoye said. It also does not release its merchandising revenues.p. Notre Dame is in the process of collecting a list of manufacturing sites from its licensees, which Hoye said could be in the thousands because many of Notre Dame’s 230 licensees have dozens of sites operated by subcontractors. The Pricewaterhouse Coopers firm will then use the list to randomly select sites for visits, Hoye said.p. The university’s efforts come just ahead of a plan by the Fair Labor Association to create a centralized monitoring system to monitor sweatshop labor overseas, said Michael Posner, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.p. The group is one of four non-governmental agencies advising the FLA, which was created through a Clinton administration initiative to improve overseas labor conditions.p. Posner said he doesn’t know of any other schools that have established their own monitoring system and expects Notre Dame to help pave the way for the FLA next year.p. “They’re certainly among the schools that are trying to take this seriously, and Notre Dame has if not the largest, one of the largest licensing programs in the country, so it’s very important that schools like Notre Dame are in the forefront,” said Posner. “There needs to be an industry-wide system that holds every company accountable to the same standing.”p. Posner said he expects the monitoring system to be in place by early next year, but Hoye said the university decided to go out on its own with its $75,000 plan rather than wait any longer.p. Notre Dame still hopes to be part of the FLA effort and has discussed with other universities the possibility of pooling resources, including reporting on working conditions to universities that share the costs of monitoring checks.p. “While our code of conduct was a good start, we knew more needed to be done, and that doesn’t mean we’re at the end with this, either,” said school spokesman Dennis Brown.

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