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September, 25 2017  6:56 EST

Integrity of Fair Labor Association(FLA) Challenged:

Sweatshop Companies Fund Nonprofit Groups of FLA!

Summary

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. More recently the FLA has been attacked by student anti-sweatshop campaigners who charge that the FLA inadequately addresses issues affecting sweatshop workers.

Nonprofit Watch's report 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.

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). Our action page has more contact numbers for Amnesty International.

Nonprofit Watch is an internet project to explore conflict of interest issues in the nonprofit sector; it has previously operated under the name Nonprofit Accountability Project and used the website www.erols.com/npap .


(Note some references are hyperlinked and can be accessed from Nonprofit Watch's website. Nonprofit Watch has attempted to provide references -- citations, hyperlinks, supporting documents -- for the information presented below. Limited time and resources have prevented referencing of every fact; however, these are available upon request .)
 
Introduction

The Fair Labor Association (FLA) is a sweatshop monitoring entity emanating from the Apparel Industry Partnership(AIP) formed by the White House in 1996. In recent years the FLA suffered from resignations by union and religious investor representatives -- a discussion of this fallout is available from the internet project Sweatshop Watch, which is of no connection to Nonprofit Watch. Medea Benjamin, co-director of Global Exchange decried in 1998 that, "The Fair Labor Association neither represents labor nor is fair. This agreement will allow corporations to continue paying poverty wages, violate labor rights and hide their factories overseas.(1)

Proponents of the FLA such as Michael Posner of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights have voiced strong support for the project. However, student anti-sweatshop campaigners, organizing in part through United Students Against Sweatshops, have charged that the FLA will inadequately address the sweatshop issue. On college campuses sit-ins have been taking place in the past months to pressure university administrators to withdraw from the FLA and join an alternative organization, the Workers Rights Consortium. Student activists have voiced anger at what they view as the hijacking by the FLA of the agenda set into motion by students; they do not trust that the FLA will adequately address the issues that galvanized university activists to sacrifice their academic and social lives in pursuit of social justice. At protests students have carried posters reading "FLA = Flawed Labor Agreement."

The following by no means claims to evaluate the issues that separate the supporters and detractors of the FLA, but is an effort to examine gross conflicts of interests amongst the leading nonprofits that have been involved with the Apparel Industry Partnership and FLA. Since the 1996 creation of the Apparel Industry Partnership and the later formation of FLA, the following four nonprofits -- Robert F. Kennedy(RFK) Memorial, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, National Consumers League, and International Labor Rights Fund have played a leadership role. Below Nonprofit Watch finds major conflict of interest issues in three of the four groups. The involvement of the Kennedy Memorial and the Lawyers Committee with the FLA has been important in promoting the FLA's human rights legitimacy; the fact that these two "human rights" groups are funded by sweatshop companies as we see below challenges this legitimacy.
 
 

The Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Memorial

The Center for Human Rights of the Robert F. Kennedy(RFK) Memorial has numerous conflict of interest issues in regards to working on sweatshop matters. These are:

Sweatshop companies Nike, The Gap, and Levi-Strauss have funded the Memorial;

Sweatshop icon Kathie Lee Gifford is an in-law of the Robert F. Kennedy family;

The RFK Memorial's board of directors includes elite corporate lawyers with ties to the highest echelons of the Democratic Party who would frown upon activities that would embarrass the Clinton administration and impose upon corporations;

Kerry Kennedy Cuomo(KKC) is founder of RFK's Center for Human Rights, a former executive director of the Memorial, and a board member. She is wedded into the Clinton administration in that her husband Andrew Cuomo is Secretary of Housing and Urban Development(HUD). An act by the RFK Memorial that embarrassed the FLA would prove problematic to the White House and thus in KKC's own house;

KKC's political aspirations for her husband place limits on the extent of her and RFK Memorial's activism out of a wish to not trouble the political and corporate sectors that would be important supporters of a potential candidacy by Andrew Cuomo.

The above issues are explored in greater depth below. In Appendix C below, Nonprofit Watch carries out a closer look at the problematic nature of the Memorial's funding from Nike and of Kerry Kennedy's relationship with the Reebok Corporation as the two matters relate to Indonesia and East Timor.

Sweatshop Funding of the RFK Memorial -- According to a newsletter from the RFK Memorial, Nike funded the group's 1999 fundraising golf tournament.(Appendix A) Another newsletter reveals that in addition to NIKE, the companies The Gap and Levi-Strauss supported the Memorial's 1997 golf tournaments.(Appendix B) This information is based on a sampling of just a few RFK newsletters. One can just imagine what would be found if a more extensive collection of these documents could be examined. (The appendices referred to can be found at the end of this report in the printed version and scanned in the internet version.)

NIKE and the RFK Memorial -- An activist who asked to remain anonymous and who has collaborated with the RFK Memorial's Center for Human Rights commented to NonProfit Watch that he had heard from an RFK employee that Nike or its CEO Phil Knight had donated $500,000 to the Memorial. Regrettably public disclosure laws for charities do not require them to make available the amount of their donations from corporations and corporate executives, or even to acknowledge that a corporation or corporate executive actually gave them support. However from the RFK Memorial's newsletter it is clear that the group is willing to receive active support from Nike; the question of what that support has amounted to over the years is uncertain.

In March 1999, Jim Silk, then the director of the RFK Memorial's Center for Human Rights, commented to the Washington Post that, "It's kind of an experiment and if it doesn't work, we'll take steps to fix it and we'll be critical of it as well. . . . We recognize the agreement reached between companies and a number of non-governmental organizations has some weaknesses, because it was negotiated. But that also is its strength."(2) The Washington Post wrote that the RFK Memorial "worked closely with footwear and apparel workers in Indonesia." We expect the Post did not know and Mr. Silk did not volunteer that Nike and other apparel manufacturers fund the RFK Memorial. This small piece of information would have given a very different perspective upon the matter.

When Silk served on the FLA panel, it is doubtful that upon introducing himself he noted the fact that his work was underwritten by companies attacked for their sweat practices. These relationships cast questions upon the integrity and independence of RFK Memorial’s representative to sit on the board representing civil society. The FLA board was meant to have twelve representatives, six from the nonprofit community and sex representing business. Yet the corporate funding of the FLA's nonprofit members would seem to skew the apparent balance of this arrangement. As we will see below, RFK is not the only nonprofit member of the FLA with questionable "ties that bind." ( In fairness to Mr. Silk, to have told the Washington Post and other press that Nike was a funder and made this clear within the context of working on the FLA would probably have meant losing his job. Silk is now executive director of Yale Law School's Schell Center for International Human Rights and continues to be active with the FLA, having cosigned a February 2000 open letter to universities. Perhaps activists could look upon him as having greater independence now that he is no longer at the RFK Memorial, but some may not trust him in light of his past role at RFK which in retrospect seems controversial on account of the sweatshop funding. Also, corporate law firms have strong ties to law schools and these may be a constraining influence upon the activities of the Schell Center and its executive director.)

A few years ago while leafleting at a Nike-sponsored 5K "Race Against Racism," this author encountered Brad Figel, a public relations person for Nike. Figel and I talked as I walked around handing out my flyers critical of Nike’s treatment of workers, and he accompanied me and gave out Nike’s own flyer that promoted its operations as commendable. Upon departing, I bid him goodbye and inquired, "By the way, how’s Ethel?" "Ethel?" said Brad, "you mean Ethel Kennedy?" "Yes," I answered. "Fine, we work with the RFK folks all the time," Nike's flak exclaimed.

Figel use to be member of Senator Packwood's staff.(3) So it is perhaps especially fitting that he later found employment with Nike. Recall that Packwood built up a record of promoting issues of concern to woman, but ended up resigning from Congress under a cloud of sexual harassment charges. Somewhat similarly, Nike in its advertising promotes a vision of woman freely defining themselves, yet in its factories places women in oppressive work conditions. As an appropriate stepping stone to working for Nike, Figel also served as chief minority trade counsel of the Senate Finance Committee -- Packwood was the ranking Republican.(4) At the committee Figel worked on passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade(GATT). In the case of the latter Figel worried about the linking of environmental and labor concerns to the agreement as endangering passage. Certainly Mr. Figel would not have wanted human rights to burden the agreements as well. Whether this approach is in the best interests of advancing human rights it to be questioned, but don't expect the Memorial to do so in light of its funders.(Appalled by what you've read, take action: )

Kathie Lee Gifford and The RFK Memorial -- Ridiculed sweatshop icon Kathie Lee Gifford is a Kennedy in-law. Kathie Lee is the wife of Frank Gifford, father of Victoria, the wife of the now deceased Michael Kennedy, a brother of Kerry Kennedy Cuomo.(5)

Kathie Lee gained notoriety when it was exposed that sweatshop and child labor were involved in the manufacture of her clothing line, which ironically directed its profits to help children. She has played a role in the controversial White House's Apparel Industry Partnership and the Fair Labor Association(FLA).

The Washington Post's Reliable Source noted that in attending a reception of the Smithsonian's sweatshop exhibit, Kathie Lee was accompanied by Ethel Kennedy. The Post commented "don't expect Nike head Phil Knight to swoosh in."(5) Yet, in light of what we see here, it would have been natural for him to escort the matrons since Nike funds the family's Memorial.

The RFK Memorial's Elite Board Members -- Several of RFK Memorial's directors represent elite corporate and political interests -- in essence the political establishment that relegates human rights concerns to the political sidelines.

Jack Quinn served as "Chief of Staff to Vice President Gore and White House Counsel for President Clinton. [He is] now a partner at the law firm of Arnold & Porter," according to a biography of him at Speakout.Com . According to the Center for Responsive Politics(CRP), Arnold and Porter represents a multitude of corporations. CRP's website also shows that director Thomas Downey lobbies for major corporations, including apparel company The Limited. Director Steven Grossman is a former head of the Democratic National Committee(DNC) and a close ally of Al Gore. Marvin S. Rosen has served as finance chair of the DNC and is a corporate lawyer with the firm of Greenberg Traurig which was embroiled in scandal over its representation of oil-financier Roger Tamraz, a messy matter in which Senator Kennedy and his wife were also involved. The Secretary of the Board Anthony Williams, Esq is a "partner with Coudert Brothers' New York office and Chairman of the firm's Executive Committee." Coudert is an international law firm with offices all over the globe including China where it has an extensive practice.

Kerry Kennedy and the RFK Memorial's staffers may huff and puff about human rights violations in China and elsewhere; Kerry may jet about the globe to cry over the latest human rights abuses; but powerful U.S. political and corporate interests that put profits before respect for human rights will never have to pay a financial or political price from Kerry or the Memorial. As Nonprofit Watch will explore in the future, we are a long way from when the Kennedy's were denouncing the moral emptiness of Reagan's South Africa policy of constructive engagement.

The RFK Memorial and Andrew Cuomo -- As pointed out by a recent article in the New York Observer, Andrew Cuomo ponders a run for governor of New York. Elsewhere it has been noted that his wife Kerry Kennedy has explored the matter on his behalf. Cuomo's name has also been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential running mate for Al Gore. With these aspirations in addition to his role as Secretary of HUD, human rights activism from the RFK Memorial that substantively challenged the corporate and political sectors would be problematic for Cuomo: corporate donors might be more reluctant to support him and the political establishment would be less likely to work on his behalf.(Appalled by what you've read, take action: )

(This marks an initial examination of the nonprofit activities of the Kennedy family. In the future as time and resources permit, Nonprofit Watch will undertake further exploration of their "charitable" endeavors.)
 
 

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR)

Examining the 1998 annual report of LCHR reveals donations to the group from a variety of apparel manufacturers. (1998 is the most recent annual report available from LCHR as of a March 2000 request of the group.) These donors are Levi-Strauss, Liz Claiborne, NIKE, Reebok International, The Limited, and The Gap.(Appendix D) Furthermore, we find major donors to include corporate law firms, clientele of which may very well represent clothing companies. For example, the Limited is represented by Davis, Polk and Wardwell as well as Mayer, Brown and Platt, two law firms that donate to LCHR and have representatives on LCHR's board of directors.(6) Patton Boggs is an LCHR donor with a representative on the board. According to information from the Center for Responsive Politics, Patton Boggs lobbies for The Limited as well as a variety of questionable corporations in terms of human rights, environmental and other public interests issues, for example, Shell Oil.

LCHR has a variety of organizational councils in addition to its board of directors. The group's International Rule of Law Council is co-chaired by Liz Claiborne's Roberta Karp, the very woman who co-chairs the FLA. Also on this Council are representatives from The Limited and The Gap. This matter of the makeup of the LCHR council has previously been reported by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn in their newsletter Counterpunch. (The newsletter can be found online at www.counterpunch.org though the article regarding LCHR appeared only in the printed version.)

We note a variety of other corporate donors and LCHR council members that the human rights activists should find repugnant. These include Mitsubishi International, General Electric Co., Monsanto, the Lockheed Martin Corp., and Pfizer.

LCHR lists its annual revenue for fiscal year 1998 as $12.8 million.(Appendix E) However, $8.2 million is from "contributed services" from "lawyers and others" to LCHR. When this latter amount is subtracted, LCHR's monetary revenue drops to $4.6 million. Of this, $433 thousand comes from corporations and $426 thousand from law firms -- not inconsequential amounts. While LCHR lists its corporate donations as 3.4%, when one removes the contributed services amount from total revenue, corporate donations actually represent about 9.5% of revenue. In the 1996 annual report, the group's accounting did not include the "contributed services" figure.(Appendix G)

It should be noted that Levi-Strauss slips in as a "foundation," though the foundation is essentially a subsidiary of the corporation -- the giving officers are executives of the Levi Strauss Corporation according to information from the Foundation Center.

Admittedly LCHR has voiced criticism of its donor corporations as it has done in the case of Nike and the Gap in regards to specific egregious cases. However, the question remains whether the group is structurally hamstrung in the extent to which if would challenge corporate interests such as in demanding that these companies pay their workers "living wages" -- the issue that caused the The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility(ICCR) to withdraw from the FLA.

LCHR's Funding From Sweatshop Companies Increases as Result of Involvement with FLA? The Apparel Industry Partnership was formed in 1996 with LCHR's involvement. Since that time it would seem that the groups financial support from the apparel sector has increased coinciding with a major increase in corporate donations.

Examining a 1996 annual report of LCHR in comparison to the 1998, it is interesting to find that there appears to be an increase in support for the group from the apparel sector. According to the 96 report, Levi-Strauss, Reebok, and The Gap, and the Limited supported LCHR in the 1995-96 funding period.(Appendix F) We do not find donations from either Nike or Liz Claiborne which along with the other four are major donors in 1998.(Appendix D) Furthermore, in 1996 Claiborne did not have a representative on LCHR's International Rule of Law Council whereas now the council is chaired by the company's counsel Roberta Karp who has chaired the Apparel Industry Partnership(AIP). It would seem that since the forming of the AIP in 1996, Nike and Claiborne realized that the work of LCHR was beneficial to their corporate interests, and thus they have contributed to the group. From an amount of $188,000 in 1996(Appendix G), corporate donations to LCHR increased to $433,496 in 1998(Appendix E), more than doubling. While breakdowns of the donations from apparel companies versus other corporations are not available, probably NIKE and Claiborne's support of LCHR contributes to this substantial increase. Also, the other apparel companies that had previously funded LCHR may have upped their donations, especially in consideration of LCHR's work with the Fair Labor Association.

This trend that Nonprofit Watch notes in regards to LCHR may very well have occurred with the RFK Memorial as well. However, at the moment Nonprofit Watch does not have the information to assess this possibility. It would be appropriate to question both the RFK Memorial and LCHR as to their specific support from apparel interests in the last 5 to 10 years.

We should point out here that there is currently a special period for analysis of nonprofit activities in that many groups publish information regarding their corporate donors without concern as there has been little concerted effort to address issues of accountability and ethics regarding these donations. If this changes and serious questions are raised as to whether corporate donations and elite trustees influence the policy stance of nonprofits working in human rights, environment and other public interest sectors, Nonprofit Watch expects that nonprofits will no longer disclose their questionable donors.(Appalled by what you've read, take action: )

LCHR and Pfizer -- LCHR's list of "Benefactors" -- a top donor category -- includes the drug company Pfizer that has come under fire from AIDS advocates and the group Medicine without Borders on account of the company's efforts to stymie low-cost distribution of drugs. With LCHR on the Pfizer dole, one should not expect LCHR to push the envelope in regards to access to medicine being deemed a human right. While this matter does not directly pertain to sweatshop issues, it offers another case of why the integrity of LCHR is called into question.

Reebok's Longstanding Relationship to RFK Memorial and LCHR -- Sweatshop activist Trim Bissell of the Campaign for Labor Rights has written that "Kerry Kennedy Cuomo . . . lend[s] credibility to Reebok by serving on the awards board of . . .the highly hypocritical Reebok Human Rights Award [which] provides a measure of cover for Reebok's sweatshop practices."(7)

Both the RFK Memorial and LCHR have had longstanding relationships with Reebok in that Kerry Kennedy and Michael Posner, executive director of LCHR, have been on the board of Reebok's Human Rights Award for almost at least a decade. Kerry Kennedy has been associated with Reebok since at least 1991 when a Reebok press release described her as a member of the Reebok Human Rights Award Board of Advisors.(8) Posner has been on Reebok's human rights awards board since at least 1989.(9) Also as noted above, Reebok funds LCHR.

Despite of their decade-long involvement with Reebok, a 1999 self-audit by Reebok of two of its Indonesian facilities revealed atrocious working conditions; a summary of the report from the London Guardian is quite startling.

[The investigation] found evidence of health and safety abuses, sexual discrimination and communication problems. Safety notices were often handed out in English, for example. Among the more serious problems was the lack of labels for dangerous chemicals. Many workers had skin rashes because of a inadequate protection. The report, by Insan Hitawasana Sejahtera, also found inadequate ventilation in two factories where workers were spending long hours. There were few toilets for women, even though they made up more than 80% of the workforce. The report also criticized the scarcity of senior women at both factories."(10)

Elsewhere Reebok critics noted that the study covered merely two of hundreds of Reebok's contractors.(11)

One would have thought such miserable findings would not be the case after a decade long association with leading human rights activists Kerry Kennedy and LCHR executive director Michael Posner. With this record in mind, Nonprofit Watch doubts the likelihood for their groups to exert adequate pressure upon the Reebok and other sweatshop companies to reform their workplaces. In fact one could argue that the progress in recent years emanates from the grassroots movement that has developed from the effort of students and organizations like Global Exchange, the National Labor Committee, and others, but not from the activities of these elite elements of the human rights community. It seems a dubious proposition to trust that RFK Memorial and LCHR will now carry forth the momentum that built up from the grassroots?

In fairness, it should be recognized that for individuals or groups dealing with human rights abuse, attention from LCHR or the RFK Memorial's Center for Human Rights can be of an important and in some cases even life-saving influence. Nonetheless, the question remains as to whether these groups are straitjacketed from a systemic critique and a challenge of the powerful global forces that contribute to human rights violations. Additionally, Nonprofit Watch recognizes that there are good people working for these organizations; however they may very well be limited in their actions by administrators attentive to corporate donors. (Appalled by what you've read, take action: )
 
 

National Consumers League (NCL)

Writing on the website of Mother Jones magazine, Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman have taken the NCL to the woodshed for its ties to and funding from the corporate sector.(12) They charged that while "the League does some good work on child labor issues, it has been saturated in recent years with financial contributions from major U.S. corporations to the point where it can no longer be considered a legitimate independent consumer or public interest group." Mokhiber and Weissman denounced the NCL's corporate funding from the likes of the "Chlorine Chemistry Council, Monsanto, and General Motors."

Of interest to sweatshop activists should be the support from garment manufacturer Liz Claiborne. A 1997 awards dinner of NCL honored Claiborne "because of its role as co-chair of the White House Apparel Industry Partnership" according to a press release on NCL's webpage. An interesting detail not available on NCL's press release but provided by Mokhiber and Weissman is that Claiborne was amongst the top three donors to the awards dinner. This dinner "brings in about 40 percent of the League's annual budget," according to the article. The authors point out that NCL "refused to answer questions about . . . exactly how much money corporations are paying to sponsor the League's various conferences and programs." For all we know, before and since the 1997 Claiborne sponsored dinner, Claiborne as well as other firms with sweatshop interests may have donated to NCL. Regrettably as mentioned above, nonprofit disclosure laws do not require public release of this type of information.

The above support of NCL by Claiborne represents a conflict of interest for NCL's role as arbitrator on sweatshop matters from the public interest point of view. At NCL's website one finds a variety of links regarding consumer fraud. In light of the issues raised above by Mokhiber and Weissman, one could speculate that at a certain level NCL is itself carrying out a fraud.
 
 

International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF)

Of the nonprofits involved with the FLA, probably the ILRF under the leadership of Pharis Harvey has had the greatest respect amongst grassroots activists. A search of the web reveals that the ILRF has engaged itself in a variety of causes challenging powerful economic interests, including specific corporations as well as trade bodies and agreements. To the best of Nonprofit Watch's knowledge, the group does not receive funding from sweatshop manufacturers. This leaves the ILRF as the only nonprofit on the FLA that appears to have financial independence from sweatshop companies.

Recently Harvey stated that students "are naive about the level of complexity within the American labor movement."(13) Well one matter that they and probably the broader public and media were ignorant about is the extent to which Harvey's partner nonprofits on the board of the FLA have ties to the sweatshop sector.

Speaking of naivete, at a sweatshop conference held at the end of 1999 at American University, Harvey advanced the view that university efforts could exert substantial leverage upon smaller clothing lines but would be inconsequential upon the larger firms. This perspective did not seem to fit with the fact that coinciding perfectly with a November vote on the FLA matter by a Georgetown University sweatshop panel -- the Licensing Implementation Committee, Nike took out a full page ad in the student newspaper singing the praises of a PriceWaterhouseCoopers monitoring program, just the type of monitoring system that the FLA pursues but that many activists distrust and call inadequate. (Interestingly, the editors of the Washington Post recently lambasted PriceWaterhouseCoopers for "certifying MicroStrategy's misleading [financial] statements" and pointed out that almost half of the firms partners "had bent rules governing . . . conflicts of interest." The students seem correct not to trust the firm.)

When questioned about the dubious funders of LCHR, Harvey related that several years earlier he had attempted to encourage LCHR to take up the matter of human rights in relation to the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA). Harvey's efforts did not meet with success. Nonprofit Watch does not profess that linking human rights to trade agreements would result in the advancement of the human rights cause. However, Nonprofit Watch comfortably asserts that LCHR would not grant the matter a fair assessment. To link human rights to trade agreements would upset the corporate interests that fund and direct LCHR. This suggests a structural limitation on the part of LCHR that would circumscribe the types and extent of its advocacy -- a limitation which pertains to sweatshop matters.


Appendix C -- Kerry Kennedy, Indonesia, and East Timor in regards to Nike and Reebok

(The below is directed at Kennedy/RFK Memorial, but it also is applicable to Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in that this group receives funding from Nike and Reebok. )

Kerry Kennedy has expressed her solidarity with the struggle of the East Timorese in their struggle against Indonesian oppression; one of the many human rights expeditions she has undertaken was to East Timor, and her group has done work in Indonesia. The below examines this professed concern in relation to criticism of Nike and Reebok, the former a funder of Kerry's charitable work and the latter a company with which she has been involved as a judge for the firm's Human Rights Award..

Nobel-Prize Winner Ramos-Horta Denounces Nike -- In the Winter 2000 issue of the RFK Memorial's newsletter is described Kerry Kennedy's December 1999 trip to East Timor after the ravages of the Indonesian military. Kennedy describes her solidarity with the East Timorese and one of their leading spokesman, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta whom she had previously interviewed for a book that she's writing regarding human rights defenders. Perhaps she ought to have paid attention to his view of Nike.

In 1997 Ramos Horta was calling for economic sanctions against Indonesia similar to the ones carried out against South Africa in the 80's.(14) He wanted the support of Clinton and the U.S. Congress in this effort. At the same time he denounced Nike for ruthlessly exploiting its employees; its "shoes are made at the cost of slave labor" stated the Nobel laureate.

Leading Journalists on Struggle of East Timor Denounce Reebok and Nike -- In 1991 journalists Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman covered live the Santa Cruz massacre of East Timorese by the Indonesian military. Of this report, Kerry Kennedy has said, "The immediacy of that report was horrific.(15) It was a kind of crucible for changing the image many Americans had of the Indonesian government and military. It made them ask why the United States was backing this kind of brutality." Perhaps Kerry would be interested in noting what these journalists have said of Reebok.

In the 90's Allan Nairn along with journalist Amy Goodman had the opportunity to accept the Reebok Human Rights Award on behalf of recipient Fernando de Araujo.(16) Fernando was an East Timorese jailed by Indonesia for protesting on the anniversary of the 1991 massacre of East Timorese by the Indonesian military; Nairn and Goodman had themselves survived the massacre and captured it on videotape. Upon accepting the award, Nairn blamed U.S. corporations such as Reebok as well as Nike and Adidas for pursuing their economic interests in Indonesia and influencing U.S. foreign policy to ignore human rights.

According to a write-up of the event by Amy Goodman, Nairn had stated that,

You may wonder how this kind of genocide could take place in the late 20th century? How this kind of killing continues today? Well, it is in part because of corporations like Reebok, and Nike, and Adidas. It is they who pull girls and women from the countryside, bring them into the city to work in their plants for about $2 a day. Right now someone is in terrible pain in East Timor. It is about midnight there and someone has been dragged out of their house, their fingernails torn out, they are being tortured. We have to think carefully about what we can do. In this room there is a lot that can be done because the blood is on the hands of Reebok.

East Timor Action Network Campaigns against RFK Memorial Donors -- The East Timor Action Network(ETAN) has long been the leading advocate for East Timor in the United States. According to an annual report from ETAN, in 1996 the group "intensified our 'corporate campaign' to bring consumer and shareholder pressure on U.S. companies that support the occupation of East Timor . . . [and] support Indonesia's dictatorship." These companies included RFK Memorial donors Nike as well as Chevron according to ETAN.(Appalled by what you've read, take action: )


BIBLIOGRAPHY

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3. Michael Tackett. U.S. PROBES PACKWOOD TIES TO MITSUBISHI. Chicago Tribune , 7. 11-23-1993.
4. Louis Jacobson. HEADLINE: BRAD G. FIGEL. The National Journal (26:23), 1308. 6-4-1994.
5. Ann Gerhart and Annie Groer. THE RELIABLE SOURCE. The Washington Post , D-3. 4-21-1998.
6. MARGARET CRONIN FISK. Who Represents Corporate America: Boom Times Swell Numbers of In-House Lawyers. The National Law Journal , 3. 11-22-1999.
7. Trim Bissell's Response to Bama Athreya's Letter. http://www.corpwatch.org/trac/letters/trim.html . 1999. http://www.corpwatch.org/trac/letters/trim.html
8. 1991 REEBOK HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD HONORS YOUNG ACTIVISTS FOR BEING AT THE FOREFRONT OF WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT. PR Newswire . 12-10-1991.
9. Jimmy Carter to join Reebok's human rights advisory board. U.P.I. 10-17-1989.
10. Jane Martinson. Reebok follows fashion for confessions. The Guardian (London) . 10-19-1999.
11. GREG GATLIN. Rights groups pan Reebok's report. The Boston Herald , 27. 10-19-1999.
12. Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman. A Corporate Takeover: Once a legitimate watchdog, the National Consumers League now celebrates sweatshop abusers and takes a fat chunk of its budget from major corporations. Mother Jones . 5-5-1998. http://www.motherjones.com/news_wire/ncl.html
13. Michael Amon. Sweatshop movement takes national stage. University Wire . 3-22-2000.
14. LEON LAZAROFF. Nobel laureate calls for economic pressure against Indonesia. AP Worldstream . 5-7-2000.
15. Michael Richardson. East Timorese Hope for Justice, but Jakarta Holds Back; Fallout From 'Brute Force' / 2 Inquiries Into Rights Abuses. International Herald Tribune (Neuilly-sur-Seine, France) , 2. 12-13-1999.
16. Mark Marcoplos. What happens to a story if nobody tells it? Chapel Hill Herald , 4. 1-16-1998.

 

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