Saturday, March 8, 2008

No Sweat Policy at York: The Sustainable Purchasing Coalition

Please read the following communications:

1. A message from the current sit-in outside the President's Office
2. Letter of support from the Ontario Federation of Labour

1. A message from the Sustainable Purchasing Coalition and its supporters

The Sustainable Purchasing Coalition (SPC) has been negotiating a No
Sweat policy with the university for 3 years. Prior to the creation of
the SPC, previous York students had also pushed for the creation of a
policy. Students have been waiting a long time for the York
administration to make good on their statements of intent and
good-will. The University of Toronto has had a No Sweat policy for 8
years while York is still lacking.

It is true that the SPC has been negotiating a draft policy with the
VP Students, Procurement services, and the Office of the Counsel.
However, this process has been led by the Office of the Counsel who
has consistently pushed for the most basic, bare-bones policy, even
though the SPC presented a thorough and workable draft that provides
many more assurances that the workers producing York apparel are
treated in a fair and humane manner. The draft presented by the SPC
was immediately rejected by the Office of the Counsel and was replaced
with an alternative which allowed for forced labour (including prison
labour) and only required licensees to follow the laws of the country
of manufacture in regards to wages, health and safety, hours worked,
and overtime. This is grossly inadequate as many countries have
incredibly lenient laws in these areas.

Furthermore, the Office of the Counsel has indicated that they intend
to sign on with the Fair Labour Association, an industry-led watchdog
group which monitors factory conditions to ensure no abuses are taking
place. While the SPC feels this is an appropriate piece of an
effective policy it is insufficient without also signing on to the
Worker's Rights Consortium, a completely independent monitoring
organization. Using factories that are members of both the Worker's
Rights Consortium and the Fair Labour Association would offer the most
thorough protection for the workers manufacturing York apparel. There
is nothing preventing the university from signing on to both agencies,
but the Office of the Counsel has not given adequate consideration to
the request to sign on to both agenceis.

The sit-in that is currently taking place outside of the President's
office is a product of frustration with the administration's years of
delays which have only now resulted in a basic policy which provides
only the most minimum assurances for the fair treatment of workers.

There is nothing preventing the university from adopting a strict code
of conduct for licensees as presented by the Sustainable Purchasing
Coalition as well as signing on to both the Fair Labour Association
AND the Worker's Rights Consortium (as both the University of Toronto
and Ryerson have).

If York is in fact dedicated to the principles of fair labour, social
justice, and sustainability then it should not be a problem for
President Shoukri to make a statement to the 1000+ students who signed
the petition presented by the SPC calling for these policies to be
implemented. Especially when his Executive Officer informed us that he
was in meetings on campus today.

With respects,

The Sustainable Purchasing Coaition and the many of those who have
voiced their support

2. Support Letter from the Ontario Federation of Labour

March 7, 2008

TO: The York Sustainable Purchasing Coalition

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On behalf of the over 700,000 members of the Ontario Federation of
Labour, I send greetings of solidarity from the trade union movement
in Ontario. I applaud your actions to ensure that all York apparel is
produced in a manner that conforms to high labour standards. In the 21
century, no worker should be toiling in sub-standard working
conditions, and earning sub-standard wages.

Unfortunately, we know that millions of workers around the world still
work in sweatshops or earn shamefully low wages. We also know that
sweatshop labour is not a problem that exists elsewhere. This problem
exists right here in Canada and across North America. Even today, too
many employers circumvent labour standards and deny workers basic
rights and benefits on the job.

York University is a publicly funded institution and as such, it
should be setting the standard for ethical practices. The university
should insist that high labour standards are applied to all products
sold bearing its name. Other universities in Canada have adopted
no-sweat policies; it is disgraceful that York University is resisting
such standards.

Workers across Ontario stand with you in your fight for a substantive
and meaningful "no-sweat" policy at York University.

But we also call on the Ontario government to increase the minimum
wage immediately to $10 per hour and to ensure that it increases every

Your courageous actions are taking place on the eve of the 100th
anniversary of International Women's Day-the Day that commemorates the
fifteen thousand immigrant women garment workers who marched through
the streets of New York demanding higher pay, shorter work hours, the
right to vote and an end to child labour. Today we are calling for
much the same thing-a living wage for all, high standards for
workplace health and safety, pay equity and high quality,
publicly-funded child care.

Your actions are part of the ongoing struggle for justice here and
around the world, without which we would not have made the progress we
have. We salute and applaud your actions and send our heartfelt

In peace and solidarity,

Terry Downey,

Executive Vice President

Ontario Federation of Labour

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