Workers’ rights are at the top of the list of issues for one EMU student organization, and they are taking major steps to ensure the university is up to speed with institutions across the country.
Students for an Ethical Participatory Education, or SEPE, a student organization dedicated to ethics and human rights issues, is bringing a global workers’ rights initiative called the Workers Rights Consortium to EMU.
The WRC, founded in 2001, is an independent monitoring organization, reporting on labor conditions among major brands, specifically in the apparel industry.
At the core of the WRC system is a Code of Conduct signed by close to 200 colleges and universities in the United States.
The agreement outlines labor guidelines to be followed by apparel makers, under threat of termination of university licensing agreements. Items contained within the code include a living wage, a safe work environment and collective bargaining, among others.
EMU is on track to become the latest addition to the group of participants, joining other regional institutions such as Western Michigan and Bowling Green State University, as well as top tier universities including six Ivy League universities. The list has been steadily growing since its inception in 2001.
SEPE worked primarily through Vice President of Student Affairs Bernice Lindke in introducing the WRC to the university.
“SEPE approached me in March this year to request that EMU affiliate with the WRC,” Lindke said. “Several students who are in SEPE have met with me, at the request of President Martin, to discuss joining the WRC.”
Lindke said EMU will pay $1,500 of last year’s licensing revenue to the WRC in order to affiliate, and will be required to publicly disclose factory locations on a regular basis.SEPE EMU
“We had a far easier time at it than other colleges,” veteran SEPE member Phil Patterson said about the affiliation process. “We have a very receptive administration.”
Member Will Daniels praised their contact within the administration.
“Vice President Lindke was great help to work with and she really cares about the issue,” Daniels said.
The final signing of the agreement by EMU administrators is set to take place before the end of the winter semester.
SEPE views the affiliation as a positive step for EMU as a whole; additionally, the group also regarded the process as an opportunity to sharpen their organizational skills.
“It’s been a very interesting learning experience,” member Nick Coffin said.
SEPE has continued to raise awareness for worker’s rights through various events on and off campus and the members hope to build off of the success of the WRC.
“It’s really about making the university more ethical,” Patterson said. “It’s about human rights.”