It has become very fashionable to criticize Codes of Conduct and monitoring, and to hold them responsible for all sorts of unpleasant realities in workplace conditions – from sub-minimum wages to excessive overtime. At one level, such criticisms fail to recognize that wage and hour issues predate the wave of codes and monitoring that arose in the mid-1990s. In fact, codes were a reaction to such basic labor law violations.
In a nutshell
I recently spent a week traveling around China and spending time in factories and government offices talking to people about the much publicized labor contract law, which came into effect on January 1, 2008. Readers will recall that this law was two years in the making and was published for comment in 2006. Over 190,000 submissions were received from the public, including loud objections from prominent U.S. organizations. The law was finally adopted in mid-2007 amidst the public outcry that followed media reports of the use of child slaves in brick kilns.
There are some interesting new postings on the FLA web site related to the FLA’s Syngenta project. As FLA groupies know, that project relates to the FLA’s unique application of its methodologies used in the apparel industry to agriculture. Several years ago the FLA was asked to address the problem of the use of child labor in the Indian seed supply chain. The FLA commissioned two independent studies to assess the risks and then, based on the result of these studies , developed a new approach to internal and external monitoring of labor standards.
Take a look at this fascinating article about America’s truly absurd (and growing) addiction to bottled water. As the article notes, in 1976, the average American drank 1.6 gallons of bottled water a year, according to Beverage Marketing Corp. Last year, we each drank 28.3 gallons of bottled water–18 half-liter bottles a month. We drink more bottled water than milk, or coffee, or beer. Only carbonated soft drinks are more popular than bottled water, at 52.9 gallons annually.
Last month, the FLA held a Stakeholders Forum in the Dominican Republic entitled “After the MFA: Challenges for Promoting and Protecting Workers Rights in a Changing Market Environment.” The broad cross section of individuals who participated helped make this a fascinating and rewarding event. In addition to the general interchange of ideas, the group heard the presentation of a report commissioned by the FLA on the specific implications of these changes for the Dominican Republic. Among those in the audience was DR Vice President Alburquerque. View a summary of the meeting below.
Following resolution of disputes with the workers union, which included the signing of a mutually agreed Collective Bargaining Agreement last February, Paxar is “looking forward to the good faith implementation of the collective bargaining agreement,” noted FLA President Auret van Heerden, following the signing of the agreement, adding, “We will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the terms and conditions set out in the agreement are respected.
Cesar Rodríguez-Garavito’s article in Politics and Society, “Global Governance and Labor Rights: Codes of Conduct and Anti-Sweatshop Struggles in Global Apparel Factories in Mexico and Guatemala” from Politics and Society offers an examination and evaluation of labor codes of conduct and monitoring systems in the broader context of global governance. He compares four monitoring systems in his paper, one of which is the FLA, which merits some response.