On Wednesday, President William Powers Jr. told The Daily Texan the University will join the Worker Rights Consortium to monitor human rights in the production of UT apparel, an issue students of the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition have advocated for the past few semesters.
Powers said UT has not yet officially joined the independent organization because there are procedures the University has yet to complete. However, Powers said the University will be joining the WRC.
“We’re taking steps now to go ahead and join that group — we intend to join,” Powers said. “There are just some paperwork things that need to get done to join. We’ve followed up with the WRC, and on both ends it will take a short period of time to actually have filled out the forms and pay the dues.”
The $50,000 required to join will be funded by the UT athletics department’s licensing budget. Powers said no tuition or general revenue will go to paying the fees.
“In the overall budget, it is not an insignificant amount of money, but it is manageable,” Powers said.
In April, the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition protested in the President’s office because of the University’s refusal to join the WRC. 18 protestors were arrested, which Powers said prompted discussions between his office and the activist group.
“We got through that and I would say the discussions we had with the students after we got the difficulties resolved were extremely productive — they made very good presentations,” Powers said. “That led to actually talking to the WRC people, we were very impressed with the national director.”
At the time of the protests, Powers said the University was in the process of making budget cuts and was not sure if it could afford to join the WRC.
“Now that we’ve made the cuts we have a much better sense of where we are, and so it turns out we will be able to cover this and we think it will be a benefit,” Powers said.
The University will continue its work with Fair Labor Association. Powers said there were several universities who are members of both FLA and the WRC, making the situation not unusual.
“We think the FLA is an effective organization; it has a very good working relations with apparel providers,” Powers said. “We’re happy with FLA, so we don’t see any reason not to be working with them.”
Powers said the WRC is able to offer services FLA did not offer. For example, the WRC has the ability to conduct interviews with workers outside of their workplace.
“We will get reports from both groups, so they will be complimentary of each other,” Powers said. “In some ways they will overlap, but in some ways they will be additive to each other.”