In 1996, President Clinton brought together a diverse group of industry, labor, human rights, and consumer leaders to the White House to discuss concerns about apparel industry conditions worldwide. The National Consumers League was part of that group, along with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, UNITE, Liz Claiborne, NIKE, and several others. Clinton charged the group with the task of working together to come up with a way to assure consumers that they were not buying clothing or footwear made in sweatshops.
President Clinton challenged the group to take steps to assure that these companies’ products were made in compliance with acceptable labor standards and to provide a way to inform consumers that the products they buy were not made under exploitative conditions.
Created out of this challenge was the Apparel Industry Partnership (AIP), which was co-chaired by NCL's then-President Linda Golodner and Roberta Karp of Liz Claiborne. The AIP developed a code of conduct and principles on code implementation, and in 1999 established a new nonprofit organization, the Fair Labor Association, to promote corporate accountability and to work with companies to find sustainable solutions to unfair labor practices. Since its creation, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) has significantly helped improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers. In the ten years following President Clinton’s directive, the influence of the FLA has grown tremendously; in its most recent annual report, the group offers in-depth reporting on what 35 companies did during 2005 to improve working conditions in over 3,700 factories around the world.
The FLA actively partners with companies to bring them into compliance with the FLA code, as well as equip themselves to monitor and maintain their compliance efforts. The FLA annually reports on compliance information about each of its participating companies.
Today the FLA is made up of companies, colleges, universities, and civil society members that are dedicated to protecting the rights of workers around the globe. To date, more than 194 colleges and universities are affiliated with the FLA.
As a member of the Board of Directors of the FLA, the National Consumers League looks forward to continuing its partnership in promoting companies’ timely and permanent compliance the Code of Conduct and with workers rights laws domestically and internationally.
“NCL is proud to be part of the movement to improve the lives of workers — and the confidence of consumers—both in the United States and abroad,” said NCL President Emeritus Golodner. “We look forward to continuing our commitment for years to come.”
To learn more about the FLA, visit www.fairlabor.org.