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Release: June 15, 2001

Coleman accepts committee proposal on apparel licensee agreements

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman has accepted the recommendation of a special committee to cancel a contract with one apparel licensee but to give five other licensees 10 days to consider additional language clarifying provisions of the UI’s Code of Conduct.

The five-member Special Committee to Oversee Process of Securing Compliance for UI’s Licensee Code of Conduct, in a June 13 letter to Coleman, unanimously recommended terminating the university’s contract with Haddad. The committee was also unanimous in proposing additional contract language for the five other companies: Nike, Russell Athletics, VF Imagewear, Inc.; Jostens, Inc.; and VESI, Inc.

"I am very impressed with the committee’s careful and diligent work. I am pleased to accept its recommendations," Coleman said. "I appreciate that the committee members contacted the companies involved, and that they took the additional step of discussing their response with the director of the Worker Rights Consortium." The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) is one of two national organizations founded to monitor working conditions in the apparel industry. The other is the Fair Labor Organization (FLA). The UI is a member of both organizations.

Earlier this year, all six companies complied with a provision of the UI’s Code of Conduct requiring that they disclose the locations of all factories where UI apparel is produced. However, each of the companies expressed reservations about signing an addendum to the code because of concerns about the definition of a "living wage," work hours, or notification when monitoring agencies make visits to factory locations.

Last month, following a recommendation from the special committee, the university sent letters to six companies asking for further information regarding questions about wages, work hours and notification. That letter gave the companies 30 days to respond or face termination of their contracts.

Since then, the special committee has had conversations with the companies about all three issues. "We have reviewed the additional information submitted by the six licensees to our questions, met with a representative from Nike … and had additional conversations with others, including WRC [Worker Rights Consortium] Director Scott Nova," the committee wrote in its letter to Coleman.

"Based on our review of this information, the Committee recommends that the University cancel its licensing agreement with Haddad. Additionally, we recommend that new Addenda be sent

to the other 5 licensed companies who have not yet signed the UI’s Licensee Code of Conduct with proposed additional language intended to address Licensee concerns," the committee wrote.

"The Committee believes that our proposed language should satisfactorily address their concerns and would not look favorably on substantive changes in the language" of the Code of Conduct, the letter added.

The special committee’s letter notes that the Code of Conduct provides for a continuation of relationships with non-compliant licensees if those licensees are making "measurable progress" toward compliance. "This approach reflects the broader proposition, which we have heard from both anti-sweatshop organizations with whom we are affiliated, that we can only significantly influence behavior of licensees with whom we have a relationship," the letter stated.

Each of the proposed addenda include the following language:

"Licensee acknowledges the University of Iowa Licensee Code of Conduct and confirms a shared commitment with the University to improve the working conditions in the company-owned and subcontracted factories engaged to make University of Iowa apparel and merchandise."

The proposed addenda for Nike, VF Imagewear, Jostens, and VESI include this language: "Although committed in principle to requiring wages sufficient to meet the basic needs of workers in its subcontractors’ facilities, Licensee is unable at this time to monitor against the University’s ‘living wage’ code provision because it believes it is not presently defined with sufficient precision for that purpose.

"Licensee understands that the University’s Code requires ‘measurable progress’ in meeting each condition of the Code and understands that a continuing relationship with Iowa is contingent on such progress, including progress on conditions related to wages and working hours. Licensee agrees to periodic discussions to assess progress with respect to those conditions against which it cannot presently monitor."

In addition, the addenda for Nike, VESI, and VF Imagewear include language about working hours. Those three licensees prohibit subcontractors from requiring employees to work more than 60 hours a week, including overtime. The University’s code limits required work to 48 hours per week but places no limits on voluntary overtime. The proposed addenda with those three companies state that "for the present, the University will treat compliance with the Licensee’s standard as substantial compliance with the University’s working hours Code provision."

The addenda for Russell and Jostens include language stating that the licensees agree "to allow announced and unannounced site visits by approved monitors as long as [the licensee] has notice sufficient to permit its regional manager to be on site to facilitate access and to debrief the monitoring team, both of which shall be done without compromising the independence of the monitoring team or interfering with employee interviews."

The university’s Code of Conduct was drafted by an ad hoc committee and approved by Coleman in June 2000. UI licensees are also required to sign an addendum to the code that outlines standards for wages, overtime, benefits and anti-discrimination policies in factories. The text of the code is available on the university’s web site at this address www.uiowa.edu/productlicenses/.

So far, 384 UI licensees have disclosed factory locations and signed the code, but the UI has canceled licenses with 176 companies that did not disclose factory locations or sign the code.