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Purdue continues pursuit of workers’ rights, commends students’ concern

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue has decided to continue monitoring a proposed business plan that would give an outside group authority to decide who can manufacture university-licensed clothing in other countries.

A Purdue statement released Sunday (Feb. 10) stated: “The university commends members of the Purdue Organization for Labor Equality for their concern for human rights and their passion in the advocacy of the Designated Suppliers Program … While the goals of the Designated Supplier Program are consistent with Purdue’s goals for code enforcement, we join many other universities in recognizing the substantial economic, legal and logistical issues that presently stand in the way of successful implementation of this program. These concerns were underscored recently when the U.S. Department of Justice, after several months of consideration, decided not to issue an antitrust clearance on the DSP.”

Joseph L. Bennett, vice president for university relations, said Purdue officials had hoped to meet with the students before the statement was released. Earlier Sunday, however, media received a news release that misrepresented the university’s position, he said.

“In order to avoid any misunderstanding and clarify the situation, we feel it is best to release the statement now,” Bennett said.

“This group of Purdue students expresses a deep concern about human rights, especially working conditions for people employed in the apparel industry. They have raised awareness about an important issue, and the university respects their strong commitment. “Purdue will not adopt the Designated Suppliers Program at this time, but the university will continue to monitor progress of the program. The university will always seek the most effective ways to ensure that licensed products bearing the university’s name and logos are manufactured under fair and humane conditions.”

Purdue’s licensing program is administered by the Collegiate Licensing Company, which represents about 200 universities. Purdue receives 10 percent of the wholesale cost of collegiate products sold with its brand. Income from licensed products totals about $1 million annually. All of the income supports scholarships.

As part of its effort to monitor conditions in factories where licensed products are made, Purdue has joined both the Worker Rights Consortium and the Fair Labor Association. The university also has formed the Purdue Merchandise Licensing and Marketing Policy Committee, which includes Purdue faculty, staff and students, including a member of the Purdue Organization for Labor Equality. The committee’s charge is to explore promising methods for ensuring that merchandise licensed by Purdue is manufactured in accordance with the code that governs the licensing program.

The Purdue student group has advocated Purdue joining the Designated Suppliers Program, which the Workers Rights Consortium has proposed for its members. The program requires university licensees to source most university apparel from consortium-approved supplier factories. The U.S. Department of Justice in January refused the consortium’s request for an antitrust clearance for the program. The consortium has acknowledged that it cannot implement the program without the clearance. It plans to renew the request in 2009.

“The university and the Purdue Organization for Labor Equality share many goals which can only be accomplished if we continue to work together,” the statement said. “The organization’s support and advice are an important part of Purdue’s effort to evaluate how best to protect the rights of workers who produce university-licensed apparel.”

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