To: President E. Gordon Gee

From: University Code of Conduct Committee
     Luc Morris '00
     Nicholas Reville '01
     David Moore '01
     Larry Carr, Director, Bookstore & Services
     Yolanda Lamboy, Assistant Counsel
     John Tomasi, Assistant Professor Political Science, Chair

Re: Report on Sweatshop Issues

15 October 1999

Dear President Gee,

We, the members of Brown University's Code of Conduct Committee, are pleased to submit the following report for your consideration. We begin with a brief chronology.

Thanks primarily to the work of Brown's Student Labor Alliance (SLA), Brown on April 13, 1998 became the first Ivy League University to announce a Code of Conduct for licensees producing University-labeled goods. On March 15, 1999, under your leadership, Brown acted together with all the other Ivy League Universities simultaneously to join the Fair Labor Alliance (FLA), a broad-based monitoring effort which grew out of a Clinton White House initiative. On April 21, 1999, in response to concerns voiced primarily by Brown's SLA, you announced your intention to form a University Code of Conduct Committee to advise you on "sweatshop" issues generally and on the question of monitoring in particular. You charged the Committee with reporting to you by October 15, 1999. On September 20, 1999, after you announced the appointment of John Tomasi as Committee Chair, the Committee began its work.

The Committee has now met formally four times. We have exchanged e-mails and met informally many more times than that. This report is the fruit of our work together.

Our report is in three parts. In Part I, we briefly introduce the "sweatshop" issue as it faces Brown, and describe the charge to the Committee as we understand it. In Part II, we examine the FLA monitoring system, with close attention to the guiding principles you announced on April 21, 1999. Finally, in Part III we consider the issue of Committee recommendations.

Part I. The Sweatshop Issue and the Charge to the Committee

When Brown announced its Code of Conduct, Donald Reaves (CFO of the University) indicated that Brown's deep motivation in doing so was to assure that Brown's logo-imprinted merchandise be produced in a way that is "consistent with the values of higher education" (press release 13 April 98). It has been an unspoken assumption throughout all our meetings that this statement reflects Brown's ultimate aim as we confront the moral complexities of the sweatshop issue.

Universities have a special role as moral leaders in our society. In particular, Universities are exemplars of how communities whose members personally hold diverse viewpoints can work cooperatively with one another to find mutually acceptable solutions to the value-laden dilemmas they face. The members of the Committee are intensely aware that, in our capacity as Committee members, our role in meetings has not simply been to advocate for the particular positions each of us may hold dear on this complex issue---as though we were playing some complicated game of checkers against each other. Instead, we have tried to approach our task as representatives of Brown University, and of the deep shared values of higher education that Brown represents.

We wish to emphasize, therefore, that our report should not be understood to reflect the whole of any one of our committee member's own views on the sweatshop issue. As individuals, and sometimes as members of other groups with an interest in this problem, the members of the committee continue to disagree with one another. The divergence of the Committee members' personal convictions is sometimes profound. Those personal convictions are rightly held precious by each of us. However, our ongoing differences and disagreements are not reflected in what we write here. Rather, this report expresses what we have been able to agree upon together.

With that as background, the general charge to the committee is to "advise the President on 'sweatshop' issues" (press release 21 April 1999). In particular, the Code of Conduct Committee has been charged to "monitor the FLA's structure and policies as they develop" (ibid.). This brings us to Part II of this report.

Part II. The FLA Monitoring System

On 21 April 1999, Brown announced six principles "to guide Brown's participation in [a] national monitoring effort" (press release). The Committee's main efforts together, by far, have been to assess the FLA monitoring system in light of those six guidelines. As a Committee, we confronted a number of serious obstacles to doing this. These obstacles have made for slow going, and occasionally raised temperatures, in our meetings.

First, the main formulation of our charge with respect to the six principles asks us to determine whether or not the FLA has "adopted or adequately addressed" the six principles. These are two quite different questions. Further, another formulation of our charge asks us to determine whether the FLA has "made progress" in this regard. That is yet a third question. To date, the Committee has not been able to agree which question should guide us.

Second, the language in these six principles is often broad and ambiguous. While we have documentation of some of the concerns the members of the Brown SLA had that led them to propose principles worded in those particular ways, the Committee has not had access to any documents indicating what exactly the University had in mind when Brown endorsed those guidelines. So we faced a severe interpretive problem. This bogged down our analysis of particular principles again and again.

Third, we could not agree on whether we were being asked to determine whether the FLA guarantees taken in and of themselves satisfied the principles, or whether we were being asked to determine whether the FLA guarantees in conjunction with Brown's regular consumer rights (e.g., our ability to add clauses in contracts with our own licensees) satisfied the principles. These very different readings generate very different outcomes regarding the success or failure of the FLA to meet several key principles.

Fourth, and perhaps underlying all the rest, the Committee remains uncertain of the exact status of the six principles themselves. They were drafted not by a university committee charged with proposing a set of principles that expressed the full range of Brown's deepest concerns on the sweatshop issue. Rather, they were drafted as an expression of SLA members' serious concerns about some aspects of the FLA. The University then endorsed those concerns. But in doing so, was the University simply recognizing these concerns about the FLA as concerns that Brown shares? Or was Brown affirming those principles as themselves somehow constituting a free-standing bottom-line guide to all future evaluations of Brown's sweatshop code and monitoring system? Because time was short, the Committee decided to bypass that crucial question. We agreed simply to take the six principles as a working premise. But our uncertainties about the exact status of that premise continually hindered the Committee's ability to reach consensus.

The general tenor of our discussions was that the FLA initiative fairs badly if your considered intention is that it be evaluated solely by the six guidelines you endorsed on April 21. But the devil is in the details, and as a Committee we wrestled with the devil there many times. In light of the severe and unresolved uncertainties just mentioned, in what follows we shall not presume to give simple or unqualified "Yes's" or "No's" about the FLA's status with respect to any of the principles. Instead, we aim simply to provide information to you---principle by principle---of what we as a Committee identified as the significant areas of weakness or strength of the FLA monitoring system as it has developed so far. If you wish to make an overall determination as to whether the FLA has "met", "adopted", "adequately addressed" or "made progress toward meeting" those principles, we leave that to your judgment.

There is one point, though, that the Committee especially wishes to emphasize. The official Brown press release of April 21 quotes you as stating that "Brown will withdraw from the FLA if the principles are not met." Further, in your letter to Pharis Harvey of May 25 1999 (a letter which we understand to have been made public), you wrote: "I have informed the Brown community that the FLA must demonstrate progress by October 15, or Brown will withdraw its affiliation from [the FLA]". The committee finds those statements extremely significant, both as they relate to our task, and to the University community. We therefore wish to remind you of them.

We now begin our analysis of the principles:

1. The FLA's university advisory board must have full decision-making power to improve the Code of Conduct and modify the monitoring system.

a) The University Advisory Council (UAC) does not have full decision-making power to improve the FLA Code of Conduct. The UAC, due to the nature of the supermajority vote which is required to modify the FLA Charter, does not have a vote in amending the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct. However, each school does have full decision-making power individually to improve its Code of Conduct.

b) The University Advisory Council does not have full decision-making power to modify the FLA monitoring system. Again, the UAC, due to the nature of the supermajority vote which is required to modify the FLA Charter, does not have a vote in amending the FLA Monitoring Principles.

2. Universities, not corporations, must choose external monitors for factories that manufacture university-imprinted merchandise.

Companies in the FLA choose monitors from the accredited list and contract directly with them. Companies may choose any monitor from the accredited list. Universities have one of 14 votes on the Board of Directors when accrediting monitors (a simple majority vote of the Board is required for accreditation).

However, Brown could contractually require suppliers to use particular monitors from the FLA accredited list. To be effective in this, Brown would probably need to do so with a group of similarly-minded schools.
3. Universities must be able to establish criteria that determine which factories are monitored and when.

The FLA Board of Directors sets the criteria for which factories are monitored and when. These criteria require a supermajority vote in order to be changed, and as such, the University Representative does not have a vote. Companies submit a list to the Executive Director of which factories they think should be monitored. The Executive Director may modify this list.

Currently, the FLA process would allow for the "University liaison" to propose criteria for collegiate licensee monitoring, including which factories get monitored and when. The FLA program allows for university licensors to dictate criteria in their codes and/or licensing agreements regarding which factories get monitored and when. The committee notes that it is the calibre and the number of schools which reach consensus on licensee monitoring criteria that is likely to determine success or failure of such a contractual requirement.

The University liaison and the Executive Director of the FLA will implement monitoring in accordance with this criteria. Costs of monitoring criteria which are beyond the scope of the established FLA monitoring program will be borne by the licensee and/or university licensors. The FLA is committed to report back to University affiliates if licensees are not complying with the established monitoring criteria.

4. Monitoring reports and third-party complaints must be made public in their entirety, excluding names of individuals, within a week of completion.

It is the FLA policy not to make monitoring reports public. The FLA publicly releases a report each year that contains monitoring and complaint information.

However, Brown could require our licensees to make monitoring reports public by including this as a contractual requirement. Brown is unlikely to do so unilaterally, but may be able to do so in conjunction with a consortium of similarly minded schools.

5. Corporations will not receive advance notification of monitoring or verification visits.

The FLA Charter requires only that external monitors "conduct periodic announced and unannounced visits" of company facilities. The FLA has not decided what percentage of visits should be unannounced. Pharis Harvey indicated to the Committee that the FLA's rationale for having any announced visits was that so that they could compel companies to ensure that all relevant managers and company books be available to monitors on the days of the announced visits. Harvey also indicated that the FLA board is currently discussing the question of what percentage of visits should be announced and unannounced. Harvey also indicated, his own personal view as a Board member working on the monitoring subcommittee, that unannounced visits should and would be in the higher percentage.

6. Monitors must promptly investigate all credible third-party complaints of factory violations.

Currently, when a third party complaint is approved for investigation by the Executive Director, the Company and its contracted external monitor report within 45 days as to whether a noncompliance did in fact occur and how it was remediated. If the Executive Director is not satisfied with the Company's response, he and the Company agree upon an accredited independent external monitor to further investigate the noncompliance (for detail, see Section X, Parts C and D of the FLA charter).

That completes a greatly abbreviated description of our discussion regarding the six guidelines.

Beyond that set of guidelines, there have been some other significant developments concerning our assessment of the FLA's ability to address Brown's deepest interests regarding the sweatshop issue. On September 9, the FLA appointed Charles Ruff as the first Chair of its Board of Directors. Further, we understand that the FLA is currently in its final round of interviews for the position of Executive Director. Pilot monitoring is projected to begin in the second quarter of 2000.

The Committee was also impressed by our discussions about the FLA with Pharis Harvey on October 14. Harvey holds one of the NGO seats on the FLA board. His lifelong record of accomplishments regarding worker's rights in developing nations, and his firmly stated conviction that the FLA is a credible (albeit still imperfect) system, left a deep impression on Committee members.

The Committee also appreciated the alternative perspective provided by Jeff Ballinger, an advisory board member of the United Students Against Sweatshops' (USAS) Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). Ballinger helpfully raised doubts about the capability of the FLA to be an effective monitoring system.

Part III. Committee Recommendations

Our Committee has only been able to plan meetings since September 20, when a chair was named. Every committee member has put in long hours reading documents, attending meetings, and exchanging ideas in the weeks since then. Still, severe time constraints forced us to focus on the part of the charge that asks us to evaluate the FLA's progress, especially in light of the six principles endorsed by Brown. As a Committee, therefore, we have not begun work at all on the foundational question of what full set of principles we think should guide Brown in light of her most basic commitments regarding the sweatshop issue. Nor have we had time to discuss directly the question of whether, all things considered, we think Brown should stay within the FLA or leave it immediately. And while each of us has read the series of drafts of the WRC initiative, the Committee has not formally discussed that initiative at all. We therefore are simply not in position to make any considered recommendation about what path Brown should best pursue now in light of her deepest commitments regarding the sweatshop issue.

That said, the Committee hopes you will consider continuing Brown's support for the efforts being made by the FLA. We note our significant concerns about the FLA (especially the role it gives to corporations on its decision-making board) and so we believe its progress requires careful review. The Committee also hopes you will consider supporting the WRC initiative to be announced by USAS on October 19, perhaps by joining the WRC system as a founding member. We note our significant concerns about the WRC (especially its ability to actually effect change by cooperating with corporations) and so we believe its progress requires careful review.

If Brown did decide provisionally to support both the FLA and WRC, there would arise the question of whether those affiliations would prove to be compatible with each other on a long-term basis. So far as the Committee is able to determine at present, there is nothing in the charters of FLA or WRC that would prevent Brown from supporting both. We note that USAS recently declined an offer to take one of the NGO seats on the FLA Board. Perhaps this is a sign that the two groups take an adversarial attitude toward each other. However, the WRC may offer a complementary, but distinct, verification system to universities such as Brown. That issue would bear watching. Thank you.

Other documents:

99-037  News Release announcing FLA/RWC decision
99-037g President Gee's memo to the committee