Fair Labor Practices and Worker Rights

Northwestern's Memberships and Affiliations

  • Fair Labor Association
    In 1999 Northwestern University became an early member of the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a national organization committed to ensure proper working conditions for factory workers who produce apparel and footwear.
  • Collegiate Licensing Company
    Northwestern is a member of the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), a higher education licensing consortium that conducted pilot monitoring in Mexico, Costa Rica, Korea, and India.
  • Worker Rights Consortium
    In 2001, Northwestern affiliated with the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). The WRC assists in the enforcement of manufacturing Codes of Conduct adopted by colleges and universities; these Codes are designed to ensure that factories producing clothing and other goods bearing college and university names respect the basic rights of workers.

Monitoring Factories through Non-Governmental Organizations

Northwestern became one of 22 colleges and universities to fund a pilot program to gain experience with non-government organizations (NGO) monitoring factories and develop training programs that prepare NGOs to qualify as accredited monitors. Under the auspices of the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), the pilot program was conducted in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The training coordinated by COVERCO (Commission for the Verification of Corporate Codes of Conduct) in Taiwan.

The involvement of local and international NGOs help to ensure that the Codes of Conduct are implemented and result in worker empowerment and protection of workers' rights.

Requirements for Northwestern Licensees

Northwestern University has asked all of its licensees, manufacturers of both apparel and non-apparel, to join the FLA, abide by the FLA Code of Conduct (including additional women's rights language), and fully disclose the location of factories producing products bearing Northwestern logos. Licensees that do not comply with this request will have their license annulled. 

Northwestern has also embraced the basic elements of the WRC Code of Conduct. However, at this point, Northwestern does not support the living wage standard in the WRC model Code for two reason:

  • The living wage standard has yet to be defined
  • Northwestern is not convinced that such a standard will do more good than harm to the very people it is trying to help

WRC does not require affiliates to have a living wage provision.

Recognizing the terrible loss of life among Bangladesh apparel workers and ongoing threats to the safety of workers in that country, Northwestern University decided to expand its licensing policy to require all apparel licensees doing business in Bangladesh to sign and comply with the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh for the production of NU-logo products in that country. This policy is effective July 1, 2014 and applies to all licensees that source and produce NU apparel in Bangladesh after June 30, 2014.  Complying with this requirement is a condition of retaining a Northwestern University license. Additional information about the Accord, including a list of current signatories and answers to several frequently asked questions, can be found on the Accord website, www.bangladeshaccord.org.  You may also wish to review the PowerPoint presentation prepared by the Worker Rights Consortium for its affiliate universities, regarding the garment industry in Bangladesh and the Accord. Those slides are available at http://www.workersrights.org/university/memo/110113.html.

FLA and WRC Growth and Progress

The FLA currently includes more than 200 schools and 33 non-government organizations on its NGO advisory committee. More than 3,330 companies have been licensed, or are pending licensing approval by FLA schools to produce collegiate merchandise.

The FLA is developing cooperative relationships with such groups as Social Accountability International (SAI), the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production Program (WRAP), the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), workers' rights groups in Latin America and Asia, and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The WRC currently has around 185 college and university affiliates. Its governing board is made up of representatives from university affiliates, independent labor rights experts, and United States Against Sweatshops. More information on both organizations can be found at The Fair Labor Organization and The Worker Rights Consortium.