WHO: University of Houston Students Against Sweatshops (UH SAS)
WHAT: Press Conference
WHERE: In front of the M.D. Anderson library on the main campus of the University of Houston, 3400 Calhoun, use entrance 1.
WHEN: April 2, 2009 @ noon.
WHY: Students Against Sweatshops are filing a state lawsuit against UH Chancellor and President Renu Khator, Richard Alderman, the associate dean of the UH Law Center, and four other UH professors and a UH staffer alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation and defamation for their involvement and press releases related to the “Apparel Task Force” set up by Dr. Khator last spring.
Richard Alderman, also known as the “People’s Lawyer” and for his twice a week appearances on KTRK Channel 13 and his weekly Houston Chronicle column, drafted the “Apparel Task Force” final report and offered a $250 bribe, in writing to the UH Students Against Sweatshops to delay filing the lawsuit.
Richard Alderman is a faculty member at the University of Houston’s law school. For many years Mr. Alderman has been pushing a populist image of himself as the “People’s Lawyer.” He writes a weekly column for the Houston Chronicle, the only daily paper in the fourth largest city in the country. He also appears on channel 13 Houston’s ABC affiliate.
Earlier this summer Mr. Alderman took part in a scam on the University community and all taxpayers that was known as the “Apparel Task Force.”
Here’s a quick history: Back in January we got our student government to unanimously pass a bill to join the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC, a third party non-profit labor monitor made up of students, college administrators and labor rights experts with 181 university affliates: WRC ) and to sign the Designated Supplier’s Program, (DSP a proposed solution that would designate factories who meet basic labor conditions the right to make university licensed apparel) our president / chancellor Renu Khator set up an appointed “apparel task force” with 5 profs (none of whom ever published on labor rights, sweatshops, corporate responsibility or other related field) 1 staffer and 1 student. We gave a presentation to the “task force” (which they conveniently scheduled at the end of the semester when our college paper stopped publishing) where we laid out the facts and messaged DSP as the solution. We of course video taped our entire presentation and you tubed it.
In the apparel task force’s “report” which documents we obtained revealed Alderman drafted, the task force members claimed “Students Against Sweatshops said that the there likely will be little impact from joining WRC or the DSP.” We of course took issue with their blatant lies and asked 3 times in writing for them to retract and correct their falsehoods. They refused. Read their “report” Task Force report
So this morning we passed out over 300 flyers to attendees of Alderman’s “People’s Law School,” at the U of H law center. Read the flyer: alderman-flier-revised
Well Mr. Alderman and one of his associates were none to happy that we would stand on a public sidewalk and exercise our first amendment rights. Here’s what happened:
Bright and early a couple of us stood outside the law school and handed out the flyers. Everybody thought we were part of the program and gladly took a flyer. One campus cop was sitting in his car nearby. After about 10 minutes a well dressed middle aged man confronted one of our members (we think he was a law professor too) and said what we were was doing was “wrong,” and that our member was “insane.” We just replied we’re standing up for workers rights. He took issue with that and said that we were “vilifying” the people’s lawyer who does so much to “help people.” We replied yeah unless they are garment workers or students working to improve labor conditions. The unknown white male asked what the size of the lawyers house had to do with anything and we said we thought it demonstrated how the people’s lawyer was all about taking for himself and not giving back. Then the unknown white male stomped off in a huff. We thought our flyer comparing wages and living conditions of the People’s Lawyer and UH garment workers in Bangladesh would make these white males more aware of their privilege. It certainly got their attention. Interestingly enough one attendee later told me that us she asked if they would help her fill out a complaint for small claims court and they told her no they didn’t do that. So it seems that the whole event is just an opportunity for lawyers to troll for clients.
A few minutes later the “people’s lawyer” himself came up to us with the campus cop (who of course knows us well) in tow. About that time two more cop cars rolled up. Then Mr. People’s Lawyer claimed he tried to help us. We said lying about our campaign and the DSP doesn’t help anyone. Then he trotted out the tired excuse that no one signed the DSP! We said 45 schools have and that he could look at the WRC’s website and see for himself. Then he slipped up and said that he was “Trying to stop the school from signing the DSP,” he had read the DSP letters from other schools! In a polite as tone as possible we said “We don’t have to listen to you and please get away from us,” and continued to hand out fliers. Mr. People’s Lawyer didn’t know what to do and then the cop said to him “What do you want to do?” Mr. People’s Lawyer said its OK. I guess ordering a cop to arrest students for passing out fliers would have been too much for the people’s lawyer to live down later. Then we told him if he wanted to speak to us he could make an appointment. He didn’t like that too much and stomped off.
Tell the People’s Lawyer to stop fronting for a corrupt UH adminstration and tell the truth about the university and their oppression of garment workers: You can email him here: firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at his office: 713.743.2227.