Conference addresses living wage issue
By COLLEEN McCARTHY
Associate News Editor
Notre Dame took another step in its efforts in anti-sweatshop initiatives when the Collegiate Living Wage Association met on campus last weekend. The CLWA conference was organized by Todd David Whitmore, a Notre Dame professor and is an outgrowth of a recommendation of Notre Dame's Task Force on Anti-sweatshop initiatives.
More than 30 colleges and universities including Saint Mary's sent representatives to the conference. Other representatives at the meeting were from the Fair Labor Association, Workers Rights Consortium and others.
Whitmore said the weekend's conference was a success.
"We accomplished everything on our agenda that we set out to do," said Whitmore. "It was a highly successful conference. Trying to get over 60 people to agree on anything is a challenge."
The goal of the organizational meeting was to set guidelines for the living wage of workers throughout the world who produce collegiate licensed products.
The conference accomplished four main goals over the weekend. It established an organizational committee for next fall, formed a research working group, created a statement of purpose and established of a statement of tasks.
"The organizational committee will also have the task of looking for a more permanent home for the association and making proposals regarding the structure and financing of the association," said Whitmore. "Our hope for the research working group is that it will focus on researching what a living wage should be and implementing that. Also, between now and the next meeting they will assemble as much of the existing research as possible so that we will not be duplicating research. In the future, we hope that we will be able to systematize and generate research on a living wage."
The association's statement of purpose says, "The Collegiate Living Wage Association is an association of colleges and universities whose purpose is to define and measure the `living wage' for workers employed by suppliers producing goods destined for the collegiate logo market. In contributing to the goal of raising living standards of low wage workers around the world, the Association is committed to receiving input from workers and worker-allied organizations, as well as NGOs, government entities, business and other sources of expertise."
The representatives decided it was important to distinguish the association as being a group of collegiate institutions because there are other groups who are working on living wage issues and the association wanted a way to distinguish itself.
The research aspect of the organization is important because the association hopes it will receive information from other groups involved in researching living wages and bring the expertise of those groups to the CLWA, said Whitmore.
The diversity of colleges and universities attending the conference pleased Whitmore.
"What was nice was that we had both public and private universities and colleges in attendance and large and small institutions," said Whitmore. "We want to make sure that any school regardless of size could be a member of this association."
The non-governmental organizations attending the conference also had a positive response to the formation of the new association, said Whitmore.
"Their representatives spoke positively of the possibilities of doing research on a living wage and having an association that could provide a source of unbiased research on living wages for whoever wanted to use it," said Whitmore.
At the next meeting, Whitmore said the association is hoping to establish the conditions for membership in the association.
All News Stories for Monday, February 5, 2001