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Worker Participation Committee presents licensing recommendations

| Thursday, April 19, 2018

Members of the Worker Participation Committee presented a panel explaining their recent recommendations regarding the manufacturing of Notre Dame licensed products in other countries Wednesday.

Panelists included Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves, doctoral student in moral theology Craig Iffland, senior Hannah O’Brien and professor Georges Enderle.

The Worker Participation Committee was formed by University President Fr. John Jenkins. Its responsibilities include reviewing the existing licensing code of conduct and making recommendations on whether there should be a change, especially in regard to the production of Notre Dame products in China.

The committee will expand its review of licensees and factories to include a broader range of human rights issues. These assessment tools will be reviewed annually to ensure they address the broad spectrum of human rights required by the University’s licensing code of conduct.

“I think it’s important to look at the whole behavior of factories and not just focus on one or two important issues because it is possible that they can pass on the required issues, but fail on others,” Enderle said.

One recommendation explained the annual assessment tool which will be used to evaluate each licensee. The global compliance company Sumerra will examine a licensee’s corporate responsibility program, level of knowledge of manufacturing processes and issue an audit on all overseas factories.

Affleck-Graves said they had to hire an outside source to conduct this assessment, because there are so many Notre Dame licensees and factories that “it was clear that we could not possibly assess ourselves.”

The next recommendation would change current policy. Currently, Notre Dame licensing does work with countries that do not recognize freedom of association by law, including China.

However, this recommendation states that “in countries that do not recognize freedom of association by law, the standing committee may consider — within its discretion — a limited exemption to manufacture products in those countries only after the factory has completed both the Summera assessment and a more in-depth audit by Verité,” according to the presentation given at the panel.

“We know that we cannot impact the legal systems and change national policy in these countries,” Iffland said. “The main aim here is to ensure acceptable wages and working rights.”

Affleck-Graves said the recommendation as looking at the issue from a United Nations standpoint, evaluating the corporation and factory, rather than country.

“Can you do good at the individual level?” Affleck-Graves said. “This is a question we have been grappling with.”

The final recommendation acknowledged that the University should join other organizations to further the aforementioned goals of the Worker Participation Committee.

“To have a lasting impact on workers’ rights and in these factories as a whole, that’s something we can’t do entirely on our own,” O’Brien said. “We want to partner with other universities and organizations to promote corporate responsibility.”

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