Sunday, May 4, 2008

Student Letters to President Richmond

Student Letters to President Richmond as of April 3rd:

April 2008

President Rollin Richmond
President's Office, Siemens Hall 224
Harpst Street
Humboldt State University
Arcata, CA 95521

Dear President Richmond,

As someone who has vested interest in the University, I would like to state my concern over the use of our University's name on apparel produced in sweatshops. It is my understanding that other universities are participating in a ground breaking program, known as the Designated Supplier's Proposal, that will hopefully bear fruit towards efforts to eliminate sweatshops. I encourage you to join these other universities in promoting the welfare and basic human rights that workers, producing our clothing, deserve.

Even if it were not true that our University exploited sweatshop labor, I think that adopting the Designated Supplier's Proposal could only provide benefit to any worker that suffers under harsh working conditions. Humboldt State University's adoption of the Designated Supplier's Proposal means that we stand in solidarity with workers that are exploited. Humboldt State University often shows leadership and forward thinking with many of our programs and prospects. I feel that a new approach to combating sweatshops must be taken. Let HSU take a new step in social justice.

Thank you for your time.


Second Student Letter to Richmond (May 1st)

May 1st, 2008

President Rollin Richmond

President's Office, Siemens Hall 224

Harpst Street
Humboldt State University
Arcata, CA 95521

To President Richmond,

We are writing to bring to your attention the matter of your endorsement of the Designated Supplier's Proposal. As you are well aware, for some time now, several students have been negotiating with this administration regarding sweatshop exploitation. We chose to give this to you on May 1st, International Worker's Day, in order to show our solidarity with those who work in oppressive conditions. Our University has the opportunity to take a stand against suffering, and the opportunity to associate with an organization that has created an effective program to ensure that our University logo will be sewn onto garments that are made in ethical conditions. Humboldt State University is known for the graduation pledge that encourages students to have a strong conscience and a commitment to social justice. The irony is not lost on students when they find out that the school, that encourages commitment to social justice and having an ethical conscience, is the same school that does not participate in the fight against sweatshops. It is within our power to be proactive and to change this. It is in our power to endorse the principles of the Designated Supplier's Proposal. It is a necessary step towards becoming true advocates of social justice. We encourage you to sign the attached endorsement for the Designated Supplier's Proposal.

In Solidarity with the Workers of the World,

Sunday, April 20, 2008

DSP Working Group Ground Rules

DSP Working Group Ground Rules

Designated Suppliers Program Working Group

Decision Making Process Ground Rules

1. Each college/university or college/university system that is a member of the DSP Working Group shall have one vote. The six representatives of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) shall have one vote each. Matters to be determined by voting shall be decided by a majority of the WG members participating in such votes, whether in person, via telephone or e-mail. Working group members shall not vote by proxy.

1.A. At all times the WG will attempt to reach agreement on issues through a consensus of the members.

2. Any WRC and/or FLA affiliated college/university, and FLA staff, may attend DSP WG meetings as observers and may send one representative to each meeting. In addition, 15 students from WRC affiliated colleges/universities, including USAS staff, may attend DSP WG meetings as observers. All observers must indicate their plans to attend to the chair of the WG at least 2 weeks in advance of the meetings. The WG will decide by majority vote on other interested parties who may attend as observers.

3. Participation as a discussant and voting member of the WG requires that a CEO or senior officer of a college/university issue a written, public and formal statement which expresses support for the principles of the DSP, and a commitment to work seriously towards implementation of the DSP.

Note: This requirement is designed to ensure that the discussion in WG meetings is aimed at the development of a plan of action to implement the DSP, as opposed to a debate over whether the DSP has relative value.

3.A. If there is uncertainty on the part of any WG member as to whether the statement or other action by a college/university meets the membership criteria above, then such WG member may request the chair to call for a vote on the matter, the result of which shall be determined by a majority.

4. As with the initial DSP Draft Implementation Plan, the public issuance of any document under the auspices of the Working Group will be done only with agreement of the Working Group members, expressed by a consensus of the group or a majority vote if there is no consensus. Approval and issuance of the Final DSP Implementation Plan shall be approved by consensus, or, if needed, a 3/5th’s vote of the Working Group.

5. Whatever Final DSP Implementation Plan is approved and issued will not be binding on any university in the Working Group. Rather, the Plan will be a recommendation that is made available to all interested colleges and universities, inside or outside the Working Group, who can then decide whether to make the modifications to their licensing agreements that will be necessary to implement the DSP along the recommended lines. In addition, the WRC will decide whether to make the changes in its organizational policies and operations necessary to carry out whatever role is called for in the Plan. The Working Group’s role is to enable universities to work together informally to come up with the best possible implementation plan for the DSP; whether to adopt that plan will be a decision for each individual university to make.

6. The location, date, and time for subsequent meetings of the Working Group shall be considered and determined, by consensus if possible, at each meeting of the Working Group.

Updated 1-2-07

Saturday, April 19, 2008



United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS)
- a 501(3)c - non-profit organization - composed of students that wishes to strike change in the way apparel is manufactured. The organization is 10 years old and was born out of anti-globalization/alter-globalization efforts. In 2000, the United Students Against Sweatshops founded the Worker's Rights Consortium. In 2005, the United Students Against Sweatshops created the Designated Supplier's Proposal.

Humboldt United Students Against Sweatshops (HUSAS)- an officially USAS-affiliated club on HSU campus. Founded in Spring of 2007 by Bonnie Stewart.

Worker's Rights Consortium (WRC)- A monitoring organization that provides independent monitoring services for Universities. They are funded through grants, donations, and universities and have no monetary ties to trans-national corporations or for-profit corporations.

Designated Supplier's Proposal (DSP)- Also known as the Designated Supplier's Program- the Designated Supplier's Proposal was originally created to help enforce the actions of the Worker's Rights Consortium. Imagine the WRC as a dis-incentive for apparel corporations and factories to cooperate with- due to their strict rules about human rights in the workplace. As such, the Designated Supplier's Proposal uses the leverage that universities have to act as an incentive for corporations and factories to comply.

Monitoring Organization- A monitoring organization is a non-profit organization, many founded by apparel corporations, to both monitor the activities that go on in factories as well as work with factories to enforce human rights.

Code of Conduct- Essentially, a code of conduct provides ethical rules for factories to comply with in order to improve the lives of factory laborers.

Fair Labor Association (FLA)- Perhaps the largest "rival" to the Worker's Rights Consortium. Although neither directly competes with each other, the Fair Labor Association and the Worker's Rights Consortium are often at odds with each other. The United Students Against Sweatshops feels that the Fair Labor Association has many flaws including a weak code on women's rights and a lack of transparency.

Freedom of Association- Freedom of association means that worker's in factories have the ability to discuss plans, work together, and organize together to demand rights from factory owners. Sometimes, freedom of association implies the formation of trade unions, however there are not necessarily any causal relationships between the two.

Transparency- Transparency is the ability to know which factories produce which university's apparel. In addition, true transparency requires that factory assessments and reports should be publicly available. As such, the WRC discloses its factory assessments on their website.

The Fair Labor Association: An Analysis



So what is the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and what is wrong with it?

The Fair Labor Association (FLA) is a factory monitoring organization that was created by multinational apparel companies and a handful of non-profit organizations in the late 1990’s. It grew out of something called the Apparel Industry Partnership, convened by President Clinton in the wake of a series of sweatshop scandals involving major apparel companies such as Nike and Liz Claiborne. Behind the backs of student activists, the FLA signed up dozens of universities to its program in 1999 in an attempt to squash student protests on the sweatshop issue. The FLA is now the primary organization other than the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) to which colleges and universities belong in order to enforce their anti-sweatshop policies.

How does the FLA function? The FLA’s primary monitoring scheme involves certifying companies as compliant with the FLA’s monitoring standards. This “accreditation” consists of internal factory monitoring by each company’s own staff, and then monitoring a sampling of each company’s suppliers (5% per year) by one of the FLA’s hired monitoring firms. There are currently 20 FLA member corporations as well as numerous university licensees, who are required by universities to participate in the FLA’s program. Member companies are welcome to advertise their participation in the FLA in the marketing of their clothing. The FLA is governed by a 15 member board consisting of representatives of major apparel companies such as Nike, Adidas, and Reebok, as well as NGO’s, and universities.

Since its creation, USAS as well as numerous other worker rights organizations have been extremely critical of the FLA. Indeed, the only union member of its governing board – UNITE – quit the organization more than five years ago in protest of the FLA’s policies. Despite some recent changes in its structure and practice, USAS continues to believe that the FLA is a deeply problematic organization. The following are several concerns about the FLA held by USAS and other labor rights advocates:

The FLA is beholden to powerful multinational apparel companies. The FLA was created by and to a great extent continues to be controlled by some of the world’s most powerful apparel companies – the very same companies whose sweatshop labor practices inspired the need for campus anti-sweatshop policies in the first place. The FLA’s own website boasts that its 20 full member companies have combined annual sales of more that $30 billion. Six apparel industry representatives sit on the FLA’s board of directors, any three of whom could veto most major FLA organizational decisions – such as whether or not a company can remain a member – through the FLA’s supermajority voting system. The FLA’s primary paymaster remains apparel companies and most FLA monitoring is performed by for-profit monitoring firms. USAS and many others have denounced this sort of self-policing arrangement as “the fox guarding the chicken coup”. USAS believes that we cannot trust the apparel industry to police itself. True accountability can come only from independent monitoring by organizations who are not beholden – either financially or through decision making structures – to the companies being investigated. It is for this reason that USAS supports the Worker Rights Consortium as a truly independent alternative to company-controlled code of conduct enforcement.

The FLA does not provide a meaningful role for workers. Workers know better than anyone what problems exist in a factory and what violations matter most. But in the climate of fear that pervades apparel sweatshops, workers experience a very real threat of reprisal for speaking out. For this reason, it is virtually impossible to get candid information about company practices from workers when management knows who is being interviewed: it is far better to conduct interviews outside of the factory, in locations chosen by workers (as the WRC does). Yet when the FLA monitors a factory, its representative typically only interview workers inside the factory premises, where management has full knowledge that the interviews are taking place. This practice denies workers a meaningful role in a process supposedly designed to benefit them.

The FLA does not produce credible, verifiable information about working conditions. Sweatshop conditions fester in conditions of secrecy, where employers can abuse workers’ rights without fear of others finding out. For this reason, USAS has long advocated the need to shine a light on sweatshop practices through public disclosure of factory locations and working conditions. In response to criticism by USAS and others about the FLA’s secretive approach to factory monitoring, the FLA has developed a new transparency process, and publicized it widely. But looks are deceiving. While the FLA’s transparency program does disclose some information about the factories it audits, it conceals the most important piece of information that would be needed to make its reports credible: the name of the factory investigated. Without this information, there is no basis for workers or others to verify the FLA’s bold claims. Indeed, given the serious problems with the FLA’s investigatory approach that have come to light around individual cases, there are ample grounds to doubt the veracity of the claims being made.

The FLA has shown itself to be weak-kneed in standing up to worker abuse. On occasion after occasion, USAS and worker rights groups have appealed to the FLA for help in addressing major rights violations. And time and time again, USAS has been disappointed by the FLA’s failure to act promptly and meaningfully to address the problems. An illustrative case is that of Gildan Activewear, a major collegiate t-shirt manufacturer. In mid 2004, in response to a complaint from workers, both the WRC and FLA conducted investigations and found that Gildan had illegally fired dozens of workers who had attempted to organize an independent trade union. In July 2004, in the midst of joint negotiations with the WRC and FLA to correct violations, Gildan suddenly announced it was shutting down the El Progreso factory and firing all 1600 of the plant’s workers – a transparent and brazen act to end the investigations and the effort by workers to organize for better conditions. The FLA put Gildan on “special review”, but instead of requiring Gildan to provide employment to the illegally terminated workers – the only action that would sufficiently rectify the illegal mass termination caused by the closure – the FLA asked Gildan to correct misrepresentations of the FLA on its website and in the media, and take several other measures. Then, when Gildan failed to meet even these meaningless requirements, the FLA still let Gildan stay on as a full member anyway. USAS believes that the FLA, as an agent of universities, should not be looking the other way or papering over abusive labor practices.

For more information on the FLA’s failure to address worker rights abuses, see FLA Watch’s Chronology of Failure.

The FLA denies a meaningful role for students. The vast majority of FLA affiliated companies are college and university licensees. One of the reasons that USAS has been critical of the FLA is that the FLA launched a campaign to enforce campus anti-sweatshop policies behind the backs of the very students who pushed to establish these policies in the first place. In the late 1990’s, as students were campaigning to win codes of conduct on their campuses, the FLA quietly sent letters to universities offering to address the sweatshop problem by allowing them to join the FLA. This initial salvo began a long pattern of working closely with companies and some administrations, but refusing the campus anti-sweatshop movement a meaningful role. To this day, the FLA’s decision-making structure continues to exclude students. The WRC, in contrast, has built student participation into its central governing structure.

What is USAS’s position on joint WRC-FLA membership? USAS is deeply troubled by the FLA’s approach to code of conduct enforcement. Behind the FLA’s slick and progressive presentation is a very business-as-usual, company controlled process, whose approach treats worker rights abuses fundamentally as a public relations problem, rather than as something in need of urgent action. USAS believes the Worker Rights Consortium is a far superior and far more effective organization for schools to join. For all of these reasons, USAS believes that schools should ideally maintain sole membership with the WRC and refrain from joining, and lending their credibility to, the FLA and its corporate members.

Fair Labor Association - Timeline of Failures



A Chronology of Failure

From its inception to the present day, the FLA has failed to produce effective or timely responses to egregious violations of worker rights. Time and again, the FLA has proven itself unable to address worker complaints and time and again taken the side of multinational corporations against workers.

Have you heard about some of those groundbreaking victories like Kukdong, BJ&B, and Dae Joo Leports, where university codes of conduct have really made a difference? If it were up to the FLA and its members, we wouldn’t have any of them! Check out the timeline below for some key moments in the FLA’s history of failing workers.

January, 2001: Workers at the Kukdong (Mexmode) factory in Mexico are beaten by riot police for demanding their rights. Nike responds by citing corporate audit report indicating that Kukdong is a model factory.

March, 2003: FLA touts their participation in the victory at the BJ&B factory where workers’ union is recognized and wins wage increases after a long struggle. Yet when BJ&B workers visited college campuses in 1998, Nike denied that violations were occurring, essentially preventing any improvements from being made for 5 years!

March, 2003: Primo factory in El Salvador illegally blacklists union members, making it impossible for these workers to find employment. FLA member Lands’ End denies that their factory is engaged in blacklisting, despite overwhelming evidence, citing the FLA as their cover.

December, 2003: Hundreds of workers at PT Victoria factory in Indonesia lose jobs after working several 24-hour shifts to finish orders for FLA member Eddie Bauer. Workers are owed over $1 million. Instead of taking action to fix the violations, FLA accredits Eddie Bauer’s labor compliance program in May 2005.

July, 2004: 1,800 workers lose jobs when Gildan Activewear closes their factory in Honduras to escape unionization efforts by workers. FLA does not require Gildan to reopen the factory or provide employment to the jobless workers.

July, 2004: FLA remains silent as FLA members Jansport and Adidas allow PT Dae Joo Leports factory to leave Indonesia in order to avoid providing health care benefits to workers and dealing with a union.

April, 2005: FLA refuses to take action as its members Puma and Nike cut and run from Lian Thai factory in Thailand, despite the factory having had made incredible progress on labor rights issues. This model factory is currently in danger of closing for lack of orders.

May, 2005: FLA accredits Eddie Bauer, despite the company having taken absolutely no action on the PT Victoria violations (see December, 2003).

August, 2005: FLA remains silent as member companies Reebok and Top of the World cut and run from Hana factory in Cambodia, in the middle of a WRC investigation.

February, 2006: Remember the BJ&B factory where workers won an unprecedented victory with the support of USAS in 2003? A BJ&B worker visits college campuses and explains that the factory is in danger of closing because FLA companies Nike and Reebok have been seriously reducing their orders. The FLA has done nothing to stop this, despite the apparent pride they took in seeing the factory drastically improve conditions in 2003.

Hermosa Factory - El Salvador



Worker Rights Violations at the Hermosa Factory in El Salvador

In April, 2005, workers at the Hermosa Factory in El Salvador began to organize a union. They were producing for a number of collegiate apparel brands including Reebok, Adidas, Russell Athletics, and Team Edition Apparel. In a classic act of union busting, management shut down the factory in May. Despite worker protests, some of the machinery in the factory was removed. Workers are owed social security, pension, and back pay.

Workers picketed outside the factory for more than 3 months until, at the end of August, management reached an agreement with a company union. (In August, management also opened another factory nearby, that produces for all the same brands.) Managers, officials from this corrupt union and a business sector union-busting "foundation" have been openly threatening, verbally harassing, and even physically assaulting workers. Workers pressed on, however, and on November 9, 2005, factory owner Joaquin Salvador Montalvo was arrested. He owes workers US$19,000 just in overtime, vacation pay and benefits, and he owes them $353,000 in social security and pension quotas.

While Montalvo is out on bail, the workers struggle continues. They are demanding that the company:

  • Reopen the factory
  • Reinstate all workers with back pay
  • Sign a neutrality agreement and recognize the workers' independent union

At the time of the closure, the factory was producing for Russell Athletic and had recently produced for Adidas and other brands - all member corporations of the FLA. The stated goal of the brands was to arrange for the Hermosa factory and its machinery to be sold, with the profits going to the workers. However, the banks have first claim to the money generated by the sale of the factory. Given this reality, workers have appealed to the brands for help. But the brands have outright refused to pay any of the money owed to these workers themselves – despite the fact that the brands profited from the labor of these workers in producing their products while the violations were occurring and despite the fact that the brands’ monitoring programs failed to detect the violations over a period of years.

The story of Hermosa is a good illustration of how the system is broken: Nonpayment of worker benefits and the failure to set aside money for severance are among the easiest violations of all to find; all you have to do is ask the factory for the relevant documentation. But year after year, the brands' monitoring programs failed to notice these abuses – and now workers are paying the price and the brands are denying responsibility.

Unless a system of real accountability and commitment to workers and factories is established – through implementation of the Designated Supplier Program – we will continue to see case after case of brands failing to take responsibility for the abuse of workers who are sewing our universities’ garments.

Detailed Letter Responding to President Richmond

Background Information:
We have been trying to get the University to sign a "triggered agreement" regarding the Designated Supplier's Proposal for some time now. In other words, we want the University to sign onto a program that will be implemented once a trigger is released. The trigger which we speak of is an approval letter from the U.S. Department of Justice stating that the Designated Supplier's Proposal is not a 'trust,' ie. that the Designated Supplier's Proposal does not break any laws on monopolizing. By having the Department of Justice comment on the Designated Supplier's Proposal, it allows universities to ease fears about the legal issues surrounding the proposal.

As of now, the proposal is waiting to be implemented.

This letter responds to President Richmond's April 7th Letter to Humboldt United Students Against Sweatshops.

Dear President Richmond,

I would like to address your recent response to the Designated Supplier's Proposal. After reflecting on the articles and the suggested public letter you forwarded Humboldt United Students Against Sweatshops, I request that you reconsider the wording of the letter. I feel that, while the intentions of this letter appear to be rational, they do not reflect the best intentions and efforts of this university. This is not to say that your letter was half-hearted. Rather, I feel that I have unique understanding of the Designated Supplier's Proposal and therefore, would like to contribute to your decision.

Before I continue, I would like to state that, whether or not one is susceptible to lawsuits does not equate that one is doing something illegal. Therefore I must ask you, do you think that the Designated Supplier's Proposal is actually a force of monopoly rather than a force for a change in sweatshops? Clearly, it is not to enable universities to monopolize any industry. Therefore, it is very difficult to believe that the Designated Supplier's Proposal could be construed as a trust. Obviously, this does not disregard issues of legal actions, yet it does reflect on the intentions of the DSP.

So, let us not fool ourselves into thinking that legal action cannot be taken against a participant of the Designated Supplier's Proposal. This will, no doubt, always be the case since practically anything can be sued against. However, the degree to which anyone would be inclined to file a lawsuit against a DSP participant, as well as the chances of winning that lawsuit, can improve significantly in favor of the participant. Indeed, this is the realization that many universities are now having.

To speak frankly, the DSP is practically in it's final stage before implementation. So to suggest that the proposal is in the midst of 'developing' would be an inaccurate statement. However, in regards to the status of implementation, on the behest of the Working Group, the Designated Supplier's Proposal will not be implemented until a positive response from the U.S. Department of Justice is returned. This means that until the DSP is legally approved, to not be a trust, participants of the DSP will, essentially, do nothing (aside from having public discussions).

So, I suggest that the University publicly endorses the ideas and principles found in the Designated Supplier's Proposal, join the Working Group of the DSP, and affiliate with the Worker's Rights Consortium. To endorse the principles found in the Designated Supplier's Proposal is to, essentially, commend and support the idea of having a new, systemically different, way of monitoring sweatshops. This is analogous to endorsing efforts to support a campaign to turn universities green. This cannot be construed, in any way, of stating that the University is implementing the DSP. At this point in time, it is not even possible to implement the DSP with the support of the parties involved in the DSP. In addition, the endorsement of the principles of the DSP does not mean that the University is legally bound to implement the DSP if the University does not agree with the final version of the DSP before the process of implementation. This means that the University is not legally bound to implement a program the University feels is unequipped to defend against legal actions.

The fact of the matter is, sweatshop abuse continues. Whether it continues in the production of our University apparel is not certain. Yet, that strikes at the heart of the issue, that one cannot be sure. If one cannot be sure, then the myriad reports, stating continued sweatshop abuse, appears to suggest that our University could be abusing sweatshops. Still, this is not even the greatest concern. Even if our University had the ability to guarantee that HSU apparel is sweatshop-free– the reality that other universities and apparel manufacturers continue to exploit sweatshops, knowingly or not, cannot be denied. As I am sure you are well aware, by simply having a code of conduct, one does not exclude the possibility of abusing sweatshop labor. So, we must have a way to enforce our codes.

The problem with the letter you suggest, regards the fact that it does nothing to end sweatshop labor; it does not suggest any real change in our University, policies or otherwise. Even though you suggest looking at the DSP once it is implemented, it does not support proactive efforts to end the exploitation of sweatshop labor. The suggested letter, implies that there is already a legal issue with simply endorsing principles and joining a discussion to systemically change sweatshop exploitation (ie. the working group). This previous claim is non-sequitur; endorsing ideas and literally, and simply, discussing ideas is fully within the legal rights of the University. Additionally, even if your intentions with this letter are to show that HSU will deeply and thoroughly consider the DSP upon implementation, you cannot guarantee that this will ever happen. This is due to the fact that at some point, you will be leaving your office, and that I, as well as other students involved in HUSAS, will be leaving this university. Let us not pretend that this is not a highly possible scenario.

In the unlikely situation that the University is involved in a lawsuit, before the implementation of the DSP – the stated case against HSU will clearly be frivolous. It is not as if the University will be involved in plans to conspire against another party. Joining the working group involves discussions that are publicly disclosed. Is it not worth suffering an absolutely ridiculous lawsuit in order to help people, to uphold our values? With any bold actions there will be opposition. Do you think Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, or any other notable people did not face risks? Obviously, the University has reputations and the well-being of the students to consider, however the risks involved, at this juncture in time, is simply minute.

The benefits for our University to join the DSP working group, and the DSP, go beyond the fact that HSU is involved with the decision making processes of the DSP. It shows HSU is committed and a truly forward-thinking university to be even involved in programs that address these very real issues. The simple involvement of HSU in the DSP, even if it does not go through with the final implementation, shows that HSU is a part of that discussion, that it is not merely on the sideline as a spectator. This is something that can truly highlight the university when promoting it to prospective students and their parents.

In the end, denying this program a chance is denying the sweatshop workers a chance. There are absolutely no programs other than the DSP with the scope and radical difference that can make effective change. The University cannot sway apparel manufacturers to give HSU the appropriate tools to enforce our codes of conduct. Only with the joint efforts of other universities can HSU guarantee that workers are respected.

I would like to suggest a meeting, where we can hammer out the issues involved in an endorsement letter. I would like to ensure that HSU is not susceptible to lawsuits and that the DSP can get a boost from our University. Beyond all of those, I would like to know that HSU is willing to take risks in order to improve the lives of all the people around the world. You can contact me through the Humboldt United Students Against Sweatshops' e-mail address,

Friday, April 18, 2008

HSU and Monitoring Sweatshops

HSU claims to strongly promote social change through the graduation pledge. Yet, HSU does not participate, directly, in any program to eliminate sweatshops. Although it would be nice if HSU participated in the Designated Supplier's Program, HSU does not even participate in the Fair Labor Association! (source:

The Fair Labor Association is a monitoring organization original founded under the auspices of President Clinton and apparel corporations during the late '90s. It has since become one of the standard factory monitoring organizations for Universities and corporations to affiliate with. They are, in many ways, ill-equipped to handle sweatshops. However, even with their flaws, a university would greatly benefit with the combined forces of the Designated Supplier's Proposal and the Fair Labor Association.

Although our University may purchase clothing from corporations that may be affiliated with the Fair Labor Association, it does not excuse the fact that we, ourselves, are not participating in the Fair Labor Association. We may disagree with the Fair Labor Association, but both - the absence of the Designated Supplier's Program and the Fair Labor Association - seem to indicate that HSU needs to make a change!


PT Victoria Factory - Indonesia



Workers at PT Victoria in Indonesia Protest the FLA

At the end of 2003, workers at the PT Victoria factory in Indonesia were forced to work a 24 hour shift to finish an order for Eddie Bauer. When they returned to the factory on New Year's eve, they found the gates locked and their livelihood taken away. The management of the factory soon fled the country. Even worse, the workers were denied their pay and legal severance! On May 12, 2004 the Indonesian Labor Court ruled that the PT Victoria workers were due the equivalent of one million US dollars. Yet even now the workers have not received their due pay. Many have been living in the abandoned factory and have had to remove their children from school. A union leader has said that this case is "not just a violation of labor rights, but a humanitarian atrocity."

Workers then attempted to inform Eddie Bauer and the Fair Labor Association of the situation. Despite their repeated attempts to contact the FLA and Eddie Bauer, meaningful dialog with the workers was only opened up after USAS began a solidarity campaign. The facts of the case did not change in the year between the closing of the factory and USAS' campaign. Eddie Bauer and the FLA simply denied their responsibility. It's now been two years since the plant closing and an agreement has yet to be reached.

The workers' demands are simple: the only way to resolve this terrible situation is for Eddie Bauer and the owners of Victoria to sit down with the workers face to face and negotiate a payment plan, ensuring the workers receive all of their due wages and severance.

In August 2005 – nearly two years after the factory closed without paying workers’ legally mandated compensation – the FLA participated in a series of meetings with Eddie Bauer and the worker representatives. The FLA and Eddie Bauer public credited themselves for their involvement in these convenings, calling the meetings examples “of their serious efforts to resolve the case.” However, nothing substantive came from the meetings toward actually correcting the nonpayment of wages to the workers. To date, the workers are still owed roughly one million dollars.

To our knowledge, the FLA has not indicated any intention to address the case further.

The Suggested Draft to Endorse the DSP

This is the public endorsement of the DSP that we suggested. It clearly endorses the principles, as needed.

Dear United Students Against Sweatshops,

The Humboldt State University graduation pledge asks graduating students to consider social and environmental ramifications in their choice of careers as they enter the workforce. Unfortunately, the use of sweatshops throughout the world exposes people, including children, to harmful working conditions in order to provide inexpensive apparel. The university believes that positive changes to improve working conditions begins with knowledge and education of our students, staff and faculty. The ongoing issue of sweatshops and the companies that contract with them needs to be studied and addressed by an independent organization with the ability to assess working conditions, communicate with the apparel industry, and propose ways to bring meaningful change to these practices.

Change comes through leadership and I appreciate your recommendation for the university to become affiliated with the Designated Supplier's Proposal (DSP). The DSP is an innovative and independent initiative dedicated to ending sweatshop exploitation. In partnership with our students, the university would like to publicly announce its support for the principles of the DSP. We are committed to working with other universities and members of the DSP working group to implement the DSP as soon as all legal issues have been addressed. We are proud to be working with other like-minded universities to provide effective, ethical and independent leadership that will educate and communicate to both the apparel industry and consumers the consequences sweatshops have on people's lives throughout the world.

---Created on March 6 2008---

Thoughts and Response - the Administration

Hi everyone,

Here are some reactions that I have heard in the past during meetings with HSU administrators. The following includes responses to the alleged issues. Feel free to ask questions, add additions in the comments, or edit this post.

-Kenji (created April 16, 2008)

Arguments by HSU University Administrators:

Issue 1: We don't want to commit to the Designated Supplier's Proposal. The Designated Supplier's Proposal has legal issues; we don't want to be sued or violate CSU laws.

  • We aren't asking you to commit to something that has legal issues. There is nothing illegal about saying, “We like this program, we want to implement it when the U.S. Department of Justice returns with a business review letter, assuming the only thing that changes is a significant and necessary reduction in legal risks.”
  • There aren't any real legal issues anyways. The chance that it can be considered a 'trust' is slim, and probably the only 'issue' that bears any weight. So, in order to appease these fears we will be trying to receive approval from the U.S. Department of Justice in the form of a positive Business Review Letter.

Issue 2: So, we can wait until the U.S. Department of Justice approves the Designated Supplier's Proposal.

  • Why? Possible legal issues? I think we already addressed that.
  • There is nothing illegal with stating support and joining a group to discuss human rights abuses.

Issue 3: The DSP is too political, CSU's can't be involved in politics.

  • Define 'political'? Yes there are politics involved, but when aren't there? There is a significant difference between taking a 'political' stance and taking a stance on ending sweatshop exploitation. Politics are strictly issues regarding the political system. For example, stating that HSU supports a referendum, such as a California Proposition, is a form of making a political stance. Stating that HSU supports a change in sweatshops through an innovative program is, in no possible way, a political opinion, political stance, or political action.
  • Stating you have a problem with exploiting workers is not political. Stating that people are exploited is not political. You are not stating that a specific corporation is doing anything illegal. You are just stating, legally speaking, that HSU wants to ensure that there can be no mistake.
  • If anything, the DSP is strictly business oriented.

Issue 4: What if we do what you say – endorse the DSP – but then realize, later on down the road, that there is a clear and evident CSU policy or Law that conflicts with the DSP

  • Then you can leave the DSP (assuming there is a legitimate reason).

Issue 5: Why do you care if we endorse the Designated Supplier's Proposal right now?

  • It will increase the number of Universities involved, increasing chances for objective reasoning, success, and credibility.
  • In addition, it will ensure that HSU is involved in the process, without a trace of doubt.
  • In addition, it will ensure that HSU will be knowledgeable of the DSP, the WRC, and USAS. Giving HSU an educated choice.
  • Finally, it ensures we're doing something right now, and that even when current students leave, this issue will be alive.

Issue 6: But, HSU is a small University, so we will not produce any real effect.

  • So what? We shouldn't voice our concerns about the exploitation of workers because we're small?
  • It means something to the students, and will still produce effects here at HSU. It will provide credibility, even if only an iota of credibility.

Issue 7: What proof do you have that HSU supports sweatshops?

  • We purchase clothing from apparel corporations that have been known to use sweatshops. However, the DSP is not out to vilify anyone. We understand the relationship between some apparel corporations and factories and wish to repair the flaws. It is our responsibility to ensure that we don't exploit sweatshops, even we exploit them on accident.
  • At the very least, we know sweatshops do exist. Even if we don't use sweatshops, we should still strive to stop sweatshops in general.
  • Finally, this strikes at the heart of the issue. We can't be sure due to the current system of monitoring, so let's make sure. The DSP/WRC have transparency and full disclosure deeply rooted in its core beliefs

Issue 8: Doesn't adopting the DSP admit to exploiting sweatshops?

  • No, it is simply recognizing that there may be an issue and then attempts to corrects the issue.

Issue 9: The DSP has too many interests on behalf of trade unions.

  • Perhaps this is a valid concern. Yet, there are currently no monitoring organizations that can counter the 'interests' of major corporations or individual factory owners that do not care about worker's rights.
  • Even if unions pose a possible source of corruption, this does not mean the Worker's Rights Consortium, the monitoring organization, cannot provide a new way to deal with problems at factories.

Issue 10: There may be legal issues with regards to HSU contracts with companies

  • There is a sufficient grace period to make amends with this issue. The point of the DSP is that you have resources and support (other universities) to work with apparel corporations to make sure that you can legally invoke the principles of the DSP.

Bottom Line:

We only want you to commit to the DSP as far as HSU is legally capable. There will always be legal risks, but not always a necessarily substantial legal risk.


Suggestions for Richmond

Here are a list of suggestions for President Richmond to take. The points suggested are subject to change.

(Created on April 12th)

Suggested Actions to Take:

-Participate in the Working Group
  • Participation in the Working Group will ensure that the University stays updated about the DSP and can voice it's concerns and be acknowledged
  • To join the Working Group, one must publicly endorse the principles of the Designated Supplier's Proposal (see below), affiliate with the Worker's Rights Consortium (the monitoring organization), and contact the Working Group organizers
  • Note: endorsing the principles of the DSP is essentially the same thing as saying that, the university supports workers to have a living wage, freedom of association, decent working conditions, as well as reiterating the University's code of conduct. In addition, endorsing the DSP exemplifies that the University sees flaws and wishes to improve them. Endorsing the DSP also entails that the University wishes to implement the DSP once legal issues have been abated. However it is our hope that – once the University becomes involved with the DSP and once a positive business review letter is returned from the U.S. Department of Justice – that the University will fully understand the DSP, its legal repercussions, and become enthusiastic about the program.

-Form a Workers Rights Committee on Campus
  • Committee would be composed of students (from AS?), faculty, Bookstore Manager(s), a representative on behalf of the President
  • the representative would be responsible for communicating with the DSP working group
  • Meet on a scheduled basis (every 6 months?)
  • Committee would keep in contact with the Worker's Rights Consortium (WRC)
  • Note: This committee would be invaluable, because it legitimizes that the University makes efforts to improve worker's rights without a shadow of doubt. Furthermore, this committee would be involved directly with other universities through the University representative. This committee would guarantee that the University would seriously work (and be continuously updated) about the DSP, other programs, and our own initiatives.

One final note:

The committee would only be successful if the University already endorsed the DSP. The committee would instantly lose any credibility if the University did not publicly endorse the DSP. The entire purpose of the committee would be to ensure that the University can, and if they can, will implement the DSP. The committee would prove that the University wishes to remain an active participant.

Monday, April 7, 2008

President Richmond's Response - April 7th

The following is the actual response from President Rollin Richmond, April 7th 2008. This letter was in response to a student request that, Humboldt State University endorse the principles of the Designated Supplier's Proposal, as well as entailing conditions. In order to endorse the principles of the Designated Supplier's Proposal, we need a representative of HSU to publish a public letter, announcing their intentions.

This letter, in no way, endorses the Designated Supplier's Proposal. Criticisms can be found in our corresponding response letter


Dear Humboldt United Students Against Sweatshops:

Thank you for the opportunity to talk with some of you in my office
two weeks ago and for the package of letters you delivered today. I
propose that I sign the following letter and send it to you as a
public statement.

Dear Humboldt United Students against Sweatshops:

The Humboldt State University graduation pledge asks graduating
students to consider the social and environmental ramifications of
their choice of careers as they enter the workforce. Unfortunately,
the use of sweatshops throughout the world exposes people, including
children, to harmful working conditions in order to provide
inexpensive apparel. The university believes that positive changes
to improve working conditions begin with the knowledge and education
of our students, staff and faculty. The ongoing issue of sweatshops
and the companies that support them needs to be studied and addressed
by an independent organization with the ability to assess working
conditions, communicate with the apparel industry, and propose ways
to bring meaningful change to these practices. We hope that in the
process of trying to change these working conditions, we do not
deprive people of the opportunity of working in an industry that can
assist them to improve their and their families futures.

Change comes through leadership, and I appreciate your recommendation
that the university become affiliated with the Designated Supplier's
Proposal (DSP). The DSP is an independent initiative dedicated to
ending sweatshop exploitation. I understand that the DSP is in the
final stages of development, with legal and operational details still
being developed. When the Designated Supplier's Proposal is complete
and accepted by the Designated Suppliers Working Group, please
forward a copy to my office. In partnership with our students, the
university would be supportive of developing an affiliation with the
DSP in its efforts to provide effective, ethical and independent
leadership that will educate and communicate both to the apparel
industry and consumers the consequences sweatshops have on people's
lives throughout the world.

Thank you for your continuing leadership on this issue.


Rollin C. Richmond, President

I am attaching two documents that provide some of the rationale for
this decision. The first is a copy of a recent article from The
Chronicle of Higher Education that deals with the DSP issue. The
second is a revised copy of the DSP that I presume is the most recent
version. If you know otherwise, please let me know.

I was disappointed to be given a copy of a flier that I was told your
group distributed on campus recently. While your group apparently
characterizes the administration of HSU as lethargic, others argue
that we are proposing too much change. You have adopted a worthy
cause; I urge not to debase your effort by adopting inaccurate, ad
hominem tactics.


Chronicle Article