Ithaca College to Join Worker Rights Consortium

Ithaca, NY--Ithaca College has announced its intention to join the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a nonprofit organization created by college and university administrations, students, and labor rights experts. The WRC monitors the enforcement of manufacturing codes of conduct adopted by colleges and universities that are designed to ensure that factories producing clothing and other goods bearing those institutions' names respect the basic rights of workers.

Since 1999 Ithaca College has been a member of a similar organization, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), which is composed of consumer, human, and labor rights groups as well as 13 leading apparel and footwear manufacturers and retailers. Nearly 100 colleges and universities are affiliated with the WRC, while the FLA currently has over 160 members.

"By being a member of both the Worker Rights Consortium and the Fair Labor Association, we can maximize the potential that apparel purchased by Ithaca College is not made by workers in sweatshop conditions," says Brian McAree, vice president for student affairs and campus life.

The WRC works with labor rights experts in the United States and around the world to investigate factory conditions, reporting its findings to member colleges and universities as well as the general public. Where violations are uncovered, the WRC works with its members, U.S.-based retail corporations, and local workers and organizations to correct the problem and improve conditions. The WRC is also developing a mechanism to ensure that workers producing collegiate goods can lodge complaints about code of conduct violations, safely and confidentially, by contacting local nongovernmental organizations and the WRC.

"Ithaca College has long promoted the notion of 'social screening' in cases where our business activities could be seen to have a direct relationship with abuses of human rights," notes President Peggy R. Williams. "Our membership in the Worker Rights Consortium is consistent with that philosophy."

Clothing bearing the Ithaca College name is sold through the College bookstore. In 1998 the bookstore adopted a policy requiring all clothing suppliers to provide a "code of conduct" letter. Vendors providing such a letter abide by the Apparel Industry Partnership's practices addressing the issues of forced labor, child labor, harassment or abuse, nondiscrimination, health and safety, freedom of association and collective bargaining, wages and benefits, hours of work, and overtime compensation. The bookstore does not buy apparel from any vendor that does not provide a code of conduct letter or support fair labor practices.

Since the bookstore purchases the majority of its apparel from The Cotton Exchange, a North Carolina-based manufacturer, many of the concerns regarding sweatshop issues are eliminated because of regulated American labor standards. Membership in the WRC will help guide the bookstore in its buying decisions on apparel that is manufactured outside the United States.

More information on the two organizations is available at www.workersrights.org and www.fairlabor.org.