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UB Affiliating with Two Groups Dedicated to Protecting Workers' Rights

By Arthur Page

Release Date: April 28, 2005

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo today announced that it is joining two organizations to demonstrate its commitment to making sure that clothing and other products bearing its name and marks are manufactured under fair, decent and humane working conditions.

UB is following the lead of other colleges and universities in joining the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a nonprofit organization of colleges and universities led by administrators, students and labor rights experts, and the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a nonprofit organization created to help eliminate sweatshop practices and improve working conditions in factories around the world.

"As a university, we are committed to doing our part to ensure that our name and logo only go on products we can be proud of, knowing where they were made and under what conditions," said Dennis R. Black, UB vice president for student affairs, who made the announcement at a press conference.

Noting that UB is in compliance with New York State's sweatshop legislation and State University of New York policy on manufacturing standards and conditions, Black added that with the move to join the WRC and FLA, "UB has now adopted a national model to do its part in addressing an international concern. Beginning today, UB insists that all items with its name or marks reflect commitments to fair labor and workers rights."

The push to have UB affiliate with a national organization addressing sweatshop issues came from UB Students Against Sweatshops, a group of concerned students who have encouraged the university to affiliate with the WRC and worked with the university administration to bring representatives of both groups to campus last fall to explore options.

"In this case, a small but dedicated group of students educated the educators," Black noted. "This affiliation represents new partnerships; a new partnership between UB and the monitoring groups, and a new partnership between UB and UB students."

Dan Cross and Rachel Wilson, members of UB Students Against Sweatshops (UBSAS), praised the university's decision.

"We are very pleased with President John Simpson's decision to join the Worker Rights Consortium," said Dan Cross, a graduating member of UBSAS. "After three years of campaigning, we're proud to see the university take a strong stand against sweatshops."

Rachel Wilson, a sophomore member of UBSAS, noted that "in the past decade, universities have shown their apparel programs give them a lot of influence over conditions in apparel factories. By joining the Worker Rights Consortium, UB is ensuring its apparel program will help, rather than hinder, working struggles across the globe.

"When President Simpson came to UB and realized students, faculty, and staff were pushing for a stronger anti-sweatshop policy, he was quick to take action," Wilson added. "Without his facilitation and cooperation, we wouldn't have made this monumental breakthrough for workers' rights."

Cross noted that "when a workforce is being beaten, overworked, underpaid and placed in hazardous situations, with some of its members even being killed, it is incumbent upon progressive institutions to stand up in protest. Today, UB has done just that."

Black said that 134 colleges and universities are affiliated with WRC and 191 with FLA. He said UB decided to affiliate with both, as have 79 other institutions.

"Many institutions have done this, seeking the most comprehensive approach possible by affiliating with both labor and industry, rather than favoring one approach over the other," Black noted.