Integrity of Fair Labor Association(FLA)
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. More recently the FLA
has been attacked by student anti-sweatshop campaigners who charge
that the FLA inadequately addresses issues affecting sweatshop
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 .)
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
The Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Memorial
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
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
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 Memorials
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
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 Nikes treatment of workers,
and he accompanied me and gave out Nikes own flyer that
promoted its operations as commendable. Upon departing, I bid
him goodbye and inquired, "By the way, hows 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
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
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
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
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
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
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"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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: )
1. Anthony Pignataro. SEASON'S BEATINGS. OC
Weekly , 15. 12-18-1998.
2. Mark Asher. Sports Campus Activists Target Offshore Sweatshops;
Schools Are Pressuring Companies That Make Collegiate Athletic
Apparel to Monitor Factory Conditions. The Washington Post , D-7.
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 .
9. Jimmy Carter to join Reebok's human rights advisory board.
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.