Fair Labor Association Corrupt: Sweatshop Companies Fund Nonprofit Groups of FLA!

Nonprofit Watch npap at erols.com
Mon Apr 3 23:37:28 PDT 2000


Fair Labor Association Corrupt: Sweatshop Companies Fund Nonprofit Groups of FLA!

A new report from Nonprofit Watch challenges the integrity of the Fair Labor Association(FLA), the sweatshop monitoring entity emanating from the Apparel Industry Partnership formed by the White House in 1996. In recent years the FLA has suffered from resignations by union and religious investor representatives. Currently the FLA has been attacked by student anti-sweatshop campaigners who charge that the FLA inadequately addresses issues affecting sweatshop workers; sit-ins and protests are taking place around the country as students urge their universities to withdraw from the FLA.

A new report from Nonprofit Watch reveals that three of the four nonprofits on the board of the FLA have been funded by clothing companies linked to foreign sweatshops -- this is a serious conflict of interest which suggests that these groups are constrained in their work on the FLA. These groups funded by sweatshop companies are the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, RFK Memorial(RFK), and the National Consumers League.

Nike, Gap, Liz Claiborne and other apparel firms have donated to the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights(LCHR); Nike, Gap and Levi Strauss have funded the RFK Memorial(RFK). In the case of LCHR, Nonprofit Watch documents a specific increase in apparel industry companies donating to the group since the formation of the Apparel Industry Partnership. This coincides with a doubling of general corporate donations to LCHR, quite likely in part from the sweatshop sector. Furthermore, at the board level of the RFK Memorial and LCHR, there are directors with ties to sweatshop and other special interests.

The RFK Memorial has additional conflicts of interest. An in-law of the Kennedy family is Kathie Lee Gifford, the subject of criticism from sweatshop activists. Furthermore, human rights poseur Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, a major figure of the Memorial, is married into the Clinton administration and her husband aspires to political office. It would be awkward for Kerry and could adversely effect her husband's political hopes if her family's charity embarrassed the White House and upset the business sector.

The National Consumers League, another nonprofit on the board of the FLA, has been criticized for its funding from garment manufacturer Liz Claiborne. This leaves the International Labor Rights Fund(ILRF) as the only nonprofit which appears independent from sweatshop companies. In this lone position, Nonprofit Watch does not believe that the ILRF can advance a strong agenda.

Bernardo Issel of Nonprofit Watch commented that "Perhaps John McCain's iron triangle of 'money, lobbyists and legislation' should be expanded to an iron rectangle that includes nonprofits beholden to corporate interests as in the case with these nonprofits which claim to pursue the issue of sweatshops through the Fair Labor Association while they are funded by the likes of Nike, the GAP, and Reebok. It would seem that the fix is in; no wonder grassroots sweatshop activists and student campaigners have denounced the FLA as a sham."

Issel further added that, "Considering that the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial has been a vehicle for the advancement of Kerry Kennedy's human rights work, it is appalling that it should receive funding from sweatshop companies. She is the Kathie Lee Gifford of the human rights community."

TAKE ACTION: Kerry Kennedy chairs Amnesty International's Executive Director's Leadership Council in the U.S. Nonprofit Watch calls upon human rights and sweatshop activists to contact Amnesty and call for Kennedy's resignation -- Amnesty 212 807 8400, 212 463 9193 (fax) or contact your nearest Amnesty office or chapter. Also, the rock group REM supports LCHR; concerned activists are urged to reach out to the musicians -- 703 353 6689, 706 546 6069 (fax).

Nonprofit Watch is an internet project to explore conflict of interest issues in the nonprofit sector. The full report is available upon request or can be found at Nonprofit Watch's website.

POBox 53238, Washington DC 20009--202-318-1106--voicemail/fax--www.nonprofitwatch.org -- info at nonprofitwatch.org

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