Somehow, we get the feeling that the University doesn't have any intention of ensuring that labor conditions in factories that make Penn-logo apparel ever get monitored. It's not that administrators support Third World sweatshops; quite the contrary, Penn is one of only a handful of schools to fund an independent monitoring effort. But in the long run, there is little the University can do on its own, and we find its stubborn refusal to join either of two rival monitoring organizations troubling. As you may remember, President Rodin withdrew Penn from the industry-backed Fair Labor Association in February so that members of Penn Students Against Sweatshops -- who support the Worker Rights Consortium -- would finally withdraw from her office. Since then, an official committee has recommended that Penn steadfastly refuse to join either the FLA or the WRC until certain conditions are met. What these conditions are, though, remain a mystery. Officials did not focus on the groups' vastly different factory monitoring plans or views on whether workers should have a living wage. Rather, officials said they would withhold their support from any organization that did not guarantee sufficient university representation on its governing board. But the WRC already gave two thirds of its seats to students and administrators. And the FLA has made concessions on that matter. Simply put, the terms of membership for both organizations are about as good as they're going to get. Both the FLA and the WRC are sufficiently large that Penn's absence will not effect further change. While both organizations have their flaws, the WRC's stronger stance in defense of worker rights is a close fit with Penn's own code of conduct. Joining the WRC is the bare minimum Penn can do to ensure its licensees engage in fair labor practices. And we are saddened that change does not appear to be forthcoming. Penn's committee on sweatshop labor only plans to meet twice this semester and will not issue any new recommendations until the spring. To justify Penn's isolation from both organizations to students and alumni, administrators have to articulate some new, convincing reasons for not joining either or both organizations, sooner rather than later.Comments powered by Disqus
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