Taria Thomas, ILR BS '08
I went to Toronto Canada on April 14th through April 18th for the Better Health and Safety for Supplier Workshop. I had been preparing the workshop months in advance in Switzerland at the International Labor Organization as a part of my credit internship for the semester. From Switzerland I developed a program for the workshop and helped secure speakers and I also handled the logistics for the day of the workshop such as rooms and refreshments. Additionally, I also gathered all of the documents for the speakers including their biographies, copies of their presentations and the information about the materials they would need for their specific presentations. I also worked with partners in Canada via email and phone conferences and worked on the budget and payments for the workshop. My internship was in the labor inspections unit of the ILO, and the workshop was my major job objective.
The workshop was a part of the International Association of Labor Inspection Conference (IALI), which started the day after the workshop. The workshop had participants from IALI in the program, and the president, Michele Patterson spoke in our roundtable discussion. The conference started with keynote speakers from Arcelor-Mittal, Volkswagen, Bruce Powers, and many others. In the afternoon there were three working groups with the topics of: how to strengthen occupational health and safety in the supply chain of small and medium companies, how multinational companies can build stronger partnerships with their suppliers in order to improve occupational health and safety, and how to measure suppliers’ and contractors’ performance. After the group discussions there was a roundtable with participants with varying backgrounds such as the president of IALI, a lawyer for the clothing and textile union in Australia, a lawyer from Canada specializing in human rights, and ILO experts.
Overall the participants and audience of the workshop agreed that the experience was a step in the right direction towards safe working conditions throughout the supply chain. I met many different people while in Canada who were major players in corporations, unions and other international organizations. Everyone had extremely positive feedback about the workshop. Being able to help organize and attend the workshop myself were the highlights of my internship. Not only was I actually able to see the results of all of my work but I also had the opportunity to hear leaders in this field discuss very current issues.
I am grateful to Cornell for helping to fund my expedition; it was truly an experience that I will never forget!
- Taria Thomas