Message to Faculty and Staff

July 7, 2008

Earlier this year, I requested the formation of an Apparel Task Force to study issues regarding the manufacture of our University’s licensed clothing and to provide recommendations for actions that would appropriately reflect the university’s continuing commitment to human rights.

The Apparel Task Force has now submitted its Final Report, which is available online.

Evaluating the university’s existing policies, the Task Force report found “no direct evidence that showed the University to be knowingly, or even unintentionally, engaged in the sale or licensing of trademarked products manufactured under sweatshop conditions.”

I am gratified to learn that the University is taking reasonable steps to support fair labor practices. It is clear that our faculty, staff and students all support the cause for human rights. I appreciate the passion and commitment of our students in bringing this issue forward.

After carefully reviewing the task force report, and seeking input from many other sources, I will take a number of steps that I believe further affirm our commitment to workers rights worldwide and demonstrate our unwavering support of fair labor practices.

The fair treatment of all people is a primary concern of the University of Houston. To ensure this principle is respected and adhered to, we will accept the recommendation of the task force to join the Fair Labor Association and adopt its Code of Conduct. We will also require that all vendors who manufacture or sell materials that have the name or image of this University will adhere to the Workplace Code of Conduct as well. It is the University's intention to foster a continued dialogue about issues at the core of human rights and close to the consciousness of us all.

The University of Houston will also accept the recommendation of the task force and not take any action regarding the Designated Suppliers’ Program until it is more established and a determination may be made regarding its effectiveness and legality.

While the task force also recommended joining the Workers’ Rights Consortium, we note that no other Texas university has joined that organization. We have concerns about the lack of information about the organization’s operating methods and sources of support. The materials available from the WRC indicate that the consortium is intensely involved with a variety of organizations espousing very definitive social, political, economic and environmental viewpoints. I have asked our General Counsel to consult with the Texas Attorney General to determine if there is a barrier or legal reason UH should not join this group.

I would like to publicly thank Steven Craig and the members of the Apparel Task Force. I am grateful for the thoughtful and balanced analysis they have produced, and appreciate their service and wise counsel on this important issue.

I wish all of you a safe and productive summer.

Warm regards,
Renu Khator