Funded by the Donia Human Rights Center and the University of Michigan President’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights (PACLSHR), the Fair Labor Association Fellowship for Summer 2020 was awarded to Phoebe Johnson (BA International Studies/Philosophy, Politics, and Economics; minor, Business ‘21). Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Phoebe spent 10 weeks working remotely with the Fair Labor Association in Washington, D.C. and shared her experience.
“Adapted for a virtual format, the Fair Labor Association Fellowship was an amazing opportunity to explore my passion for the promotion of socially responsible business and corporate social responsibility. This experience enhanced my understanding of the ways in which the non-governmental sector can pressure firms to engage in ethical business practices, as well as uniquely allowed me to contribute to the promotion of worker’s rights and fair labor within the campus community.
With the gracious support of the Donia Human Rights Center (DHRC), President’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights (PACLHR), and my project advisors, I conducted a ten-week research project on the topic of fair labor within the University of Michigan’s food supply chain. To inform my project, I conducted a literature review in order to understand the structures within the agro-food supply chain that allow for labor abuses. I then used this knowledge to pinpoint which aspects of MDining’s supply chain were most at risk for perpetuating labor abuses. My research also involved designing a question set for MDining to use when screening vendors for their labor practices. My project allowed me to connect with a wide variety of MDining’s partners in the food industry, from retailers to auditors. Ultimately, my time working with MDining gave me a unique perspective on the inner workings of this essential and complex organization.
Beyond my research project, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) provided me a wealth of professional development opportunities from attending seminars held by the International Labor Association to networking with FLA staff. Though this internship was conducted in a virtual format, I was welcomed with open arms into the FLA community.
Reflecting upon this experience, my research on the U.S. agricultural system at both a macro and micro level opened my eyes to a world of systemic injustice that I am now motivated to help eradicate. In my future career, I strive to be involved in the advancement of farm worker’s justice and the promotion of sustainable food systems from both an environmental and social standpoint. I would like to give another heartfelt thank you to the various organizations that supported this fellowship and allowed me to pursue my passion for corporate social responsibility and unlock a newfound passion for the promotion of sustainable food systems.”