The Fair Labor Association released a report in June on its yearlong effort to monitor the safety and working conditions at seven of its twelve member companies, some of which make apparel and footwear bearing the Duke logo. “After years of working to put a strong foundation in place, we’re now beginning to see some concrete actions on the ground, in terms of labor conditions in factories and reporting those conditions to the public,” says Jim Wilkerson, director of Duke Stores. “That’s the heart and soul of what the Fair Labor Association was designed to do.”
The report details both announced and unannounced factory audits conducted by independent monitors in thirty countries from August 2001 through July 2002. It noted where companies fell short of the FLA’s standards on workplace issues like harassment, child labor, and the freedom to form unions and examined how the companies have responded.
“ This report confirms the wisdom of our decision to partner with manufacturers, private organizations, and government representatives through the FLA to monitor working conditions in the factories that produce apparel with our logo,” says Duke President Nannerl O. Keohane. “Duke members of Students Against Sweatshops deserve a great deal of credit for having heightened Duke’s awareness of this problem. Jim Wilkerson has worked tirelessly on these issues as a founding member of the FLA.”
Duke was among the first universities to embrace the sweatshop movement in the late Nineties. Students Against Sweatshops, a Duke undergraduate group, was at the vanguard of activism in promoting safe facilities and fair labor standards for factory workers in developing countries, where much of the manufacturing of clothing and apparel takes place. Keohane made the issue a priority and, in 1998, Duke became the country’s first university to adopt a code of conduct that required licensees and their contractors and sub-contractors to accept independent monitoring of working conditions.
“ We worked very hard on it for four or five years, putting in significant resources, with the hope and belief that the foundation would ultimately lead to this sort of monitoring and reporting to the public,” says Wilkerson. “It’s really kind of a dream come true for all of those who were involved early on in putting the foundation in place—Duke, among universities, being the most notable.”
Retail sales of Duke products, made by 409 companies worldwide, totaled $28 million in 2001. The companies detailed in the report include adidas-Salomon, Eddie Bauer, Levi Strauss & Co., Liz Claiborne Inc., Nike Inc., Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation, and Reebok International Ltd. Wilkerson says Duke stores carry products from Nike and Philips-Van Heusen.
“ This marks a breakthrough in corporate accountability to the public,” says Auret van Heerden, the FLA’s executive director.