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University to implement anti-sweatshop regulations

March 22, 2012


As early as this summer, Georgetown is likely to implement the Designated Suppliers Program, a system in which all suppliers of University apparel must verify that they pay their workers a living wage and allow their workers to unionize and collectively bargain, according to Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming.

Under DSP, a project of the Workers’ Rights Consortium and United Students Against Sweatshops, participating universities would require their clothing licensees, like Nike and Adidas, to source a certain percentage of their college apparel through DSP-approved factories within three years. The Workers’ Rights Consortium would keep records on which suppliers’ factories and subsidiaries comply with their standards. Universities would refuse to buy products from factories that do not meet these conditions.

“Many universities look to Georgetown as a model on sweatshop issues,” the Georgetown Solidarity Committee wrote in an open letter to President John DeGioia this Wednesday. “Therefore, we strongly encourage Georgetown to implement the DSP as soon as possible.”

GSC members say they are pleased with the response they have received from University officials on the project, though they request that the implementation move faster. According to GSC member Louisa Abada (COL ’12), GSC’s goal in lobbying the administration is “to make sure that the University continues to prioritize this issue and uses this opportunity to exemplify their leadership in working towards the elimination of sweatshops in university apparel.”

Last year, DSP faced a possible challenge to its legality on grounds of antitrust. On Dec. 16, however, the Department of Justice issued a public statement saying it will not pursue a case against the Workers’ Rights Consortium for organizing DSP. “In the circumstances in which the DSP would likely be implemented, it appears unlikely to lead to significant anticompetitive effects,” wrote the Antitrust Division, in a position backed by Georgetown administration.

According to Fleming, “the University’s Federal Relations office was actively engaged in working with various Congressional offices and the Justice Department” to secure the Department’s approval.

Georgetown is an affiliate member of the Workers’ Rights Consortium, meaning that the University pays one percent of its licensing revenue to the consortium. Further, the University seems poised to begin participation in DSP. “At this point, the Workers’ Rights Consortium, who orchestrated the DSP concept, is planning for implementation of the DSP, after which individual institutions will be able to make independent judgments with regard to participating.  We anticipate guidance in that regard this summer,” wrote Fleming. “I think it is fair to say that, especially in light of the extensive work we put into securing the Business Letter, we are predisposed to moving forward with DSP once we have been able to benefit from the guidance that will be forthcoming and it can be reviewed by relevant parts of the University.”

GSC members sent the letter on Wednesday in an effort to speed up the process. “Georgetown has been a leader on this issue in the past. However, we feel that Georgetown, exactly because it has been such a leader on the DSP and anti-sweatshop issues generally, should begin the implementation process as soon as possible, and not simply spend the months until the summer waiting for advice from the WRC,” GSC member Samuel Geaney-Moore (SFS ’12) wrote in an email. “The DSP cannot move forward until universities begin implementing it, and many universities are looking to Georgetown for leadership on this.”

Georgetown already requires its licensees, including the suppliers of its apparel, to comply with strict employment standards. According to the Code of Conduct for Georgetown University Licensees, no company that provides goods to Georgetown can condone forced overtime, child labor, or health violations, among other standards. In addition, all licensees must allow their employees to unionize, and, although the code requires that provider factories provide their employees with the respective country’s minimum wage, providing a living wage is currently not required.

According to GSC, DSP will mostly change the way in which Georgetown enforces no-sweat policies. “Previous approaches address labor disputes as they come to the attention of the Workers’ Rights Consortium and the universities, but this addresses problems at their roots,” Geaney-Moore said. “When DSP is fully implemented, Georgetown apparel will be produced in factories that already have all the conditions that avoid labor disputes. The DSP will make sure that all Georgetown apparel is in good factories, whereas right now we’re just kind of hoping that’s the case.”


Connor Jones
Connor Jones is the former editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Voice. Before that, he edited its blog, Vox Populi and the features section. He was a double major in mathematics and economics and is from Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached at cjones@georgetownvoice.com.


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