GSC Rejects Apparel Code of Conduct as `Unacceptable’

By Brian Zuanich Hoya Staff Writer

Students voiced their disapproval of the code of conduct released by the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) at a Tuesday forum sponsored by the Georgetown Solidarity Committee. The university must decide whether to accept or reject the code, which has already been rejected by GUSA and the Graduate Student Association, by the end of the month.

According to Dean of Students James A. Donahue, the final decision rests in the hands of a group of administrators whom he did not specify, and ultimately with University President Leo J. O’Donovan. The Collegiate Licensing Council could not be reached for comment.

The CLC acts as a go-between for many schools, including Georgetown, and the clothing manufacturers who produce university apparel. The CLC created this code in response to the concerns of students and human rights activists who protested the working conditions and labor violations in factories with CLC contracts.

As written, the code would prohibit the use of forced labor in the manufacture of clothing, and grant workers freedom of association where it does not already exist. The Solidarity Committee, however, feels the code lacks the proper mechanisms to end sweatshop abuses, and is asking the university to reject it.

“This code is inefficient and unacceptable, even as a first step” said Solidarity Committee board member Andrew Milmore (SFS ’01), who served as one of the five panelists for the forum. ilmore also spoke out on the code’s ineffectiveness, and dismissed the way the code had been written as “quite an unbalanced process.” Milmore said neither labor union representatives nor human rights activists were included among those who helped draft the Code.

Another panelist, Mark Lance, an associate professor of philosophy, pointed out more problems with the Code. Lance referred to Clause 6 of the code, which reads: “In countries where law or practice conflicts with these labor standards, Licensees agree to consult with governmental organizations to take effective actions.” According to Lance, this clause is insufficient because it allows factories in nations such as the People’s Republic of China, whose laws conflict with the code’s fair labor standards, to “escape” compliance with the code.

In the end, Lance argued, the code does not contain any effective mechanisms to ensure the enforcement of humane labor practices by factories.

John McCall, S.J., an associate professor of theology, said accepting the Code would be tantamount to accepting a “very, very minimalist approach to the problem” of labor violations. Agreeing to the existing code would be, in McCall’s words, settling “on something not good enough” rather than working for something better.

Given the Catholic and Jesuit values that permeate university life – including an interest in social justice, concern for laboring people, and a preferential interest in the poor – cCall said Georgetown must act quickly to remedy the condition of thousands of workers suffering from inhumane labor violations. Therefore, the university must lead by example and reject the Code.

However, if Georgetown did reject the code and refused to purchase apparel from manufacturers whose workers suffer from labor violations, James Albrecht, professor of economics, argued that the university’s effect upon the sweatshop market would not, in all likelihood, significantly impede overall consumption of college apparel.

The university has not yet taken a defined position on the code. According to Dean of Students James A. Donahue, Georgetown has “multiple responsibilities” that are “at times in competition.” Donahue said that a significant portion of the Athletic Department’s budget is generated through the revenue made from apparel produced in factories maintaining contracts with the CLC.

Even so, Lance said Georgetown’s primary responsibility lies with improving the lives of workers who are forced to suffer the privations of factory life. “Sweatshops are the moral equivalent of slavery,” Lance said.

McCall said Georgetown should serve as a model for other universities, and reject a second-rate code that does not insure the adequate protection of workers from sweatshop abuse.

“Our standard should be higher than the standard of any other university,” McCall said.

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