CHARLES RUFF TO CHAIR FAIR LABOR ASSOC. BOARD

Byline: Alison Maxwell

WASHINGTON — The Fair Labor Association Thursday tapped former White House Counsel Charles Ruff to chair its board of directors.
The FLA, organized last year, is the result of the Apparel Industry Partnership, a White House task force set up in 1996 to combat sweatshop conditions internationally and develop a program of global plant monitoring.
As chairman of the board, Ruff will oversee the FLA’s efforts to enforce an industrywide code of conduct at apparel and footwear factories and will participate in the recruitment and appointment of FLA staff.
Reached for comment, Ruff said, “My job will be to take the consensus that’s been so carefully wrought over the last couple of years between the non-governmental organizations and the manufacturers and implement these monitoring codes.”
Ruff, a former Watergate prosecutor, served as White House counsel from 1997 to 1999, representing President Clinton during the Whitewater inquiry and the impeachment trial. In August, Ruff returned to the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling, where he had been a partner from 1982 to1995. From 1995 to 1997, Ruff was corporation counsel to the District of Columbia. Before joining Covington & Burling, Ruff was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and Acting Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department.
Final FLA board members have not yet been named, but an interim board consists of representatives from Liz Claiborne Inc., Nike, Reebok, Phillips-Van Heusen, the International Labor Rights Fund, the Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights, the National Consumers League, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights and Duke University.
In addition, Adidas-Salomon, Kathie Lee Gifford, Levi Strauss & Co., L.L. Bean, Nicole Miller and Patagonia have signed onto the FLA and agreed to implement its code of conduct at their factories.
Groups like the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the National Labor Committee have been criticizing the FLA for what they charge is a “watered-down” code of conduct, allowing firms to only minimally comply with fair labor standards.
“We’d be foolish not to be concerned about [opposition],” Ruff said. “But we hope that the people who watch us will be pleased with what we do.”