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Release: May 8, 2001

UI officials to discuss conditions for canceling apparel licenses

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa may cancel licenses with six companies who produce apparel and other items bearing UI logos if they do not sign an addendum to the UI's Code of Conduct.

On Monday, a five person ad hoc committee of UI officials and one UI student sent a letter to University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman, recommending that licenses be terminated within 30 days if they do not sign the addendum, and if substantial progress is not made toward "a mutually-satisfactory resolution."

The six companies -- Nike, Russell Athletics, VF Imagewear and Josten's, Vision Embroidery/VESI and Haddad -- have disclosed factory locations but have expressed reservations about signing the code addendum, mostly because of concerns about the definition of a "living wage."

Last week, the committee, formed as a working group of the UI Human Rights Committee, recommended that the UI respond to the companies by explaining that the "living wage" portion of the code of conduct is "aspirational" but that the UI does not intend to alter the code.

Coleman will review the recommendations and if she supports them, the request will be sent to the companies.

The Code of Conduct, which requires the companies to disclose factory locations or face suspension of their licenses, was drafted by an ad hoc committee and approved by Coleman in June 2000. Under the code, 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.

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.

UI representatives also recently participated in a University Caucus meeting of the Worker's Rights Consortium, which is drafting guidelines to investigate apparel companies alleged to have poor working conditions.

The UI representative to the WRC, Lon Moeller, clinical associate professor in the department of management and organizations in the Tippie College of Business, said colleges and universities in the WRC Caucus would vote soon to approve these guidelines. Drafts of these provisions were discussed at University Caucus meeting April 27 in Des Plaines, Ill.

Moeller said the governing board of the WRC has adopted a Model Code of Conduct, and affiliated colleges and universities that have recently joined are required to adopt their own manufacturing Code of Conduct, as the UI has already done.

Moeller noted other WRC activities from the University Caucus:

* The WRC investigation of the Kukdong factory in Mexico -- which manufactures sweatshirts for Nike -- is close to completion. A preliminary report has been issued; a final report will be issued to affiliates within the next few weeks. UI Law Professor Marcella David is a member of the WRC's investigation team, serving also as WRC's treasurer and member of the WRC board of directors.

* Schools can join the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and still maintain their WRC affiliation, and the WRC supports building relationships with other organizations to maximize workplace investigations and monitoring.

* As of May 1, some 80 schools are affiliated with the WRC, with Notre Dame and Syracuse recently joining the WRC. The WRC has hired an executive director, Scott Nova, and anticipates a professional staff of five full-time positions. The WRC's budget is currently $500,000, and Nova is seeking grant funding for additional financial support.