SBD/Issue 48/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Students Push Russell Athletic To Rehire Unionized Workers

Schools Revisiting Russell Contract After
Company Rehires Honduran Workers
Under pressure from anti-sweatshop coalition United Students Against Sweatshops, Russell Athletic agreed to "rehire 1,200 workers in Honduras who lost their jobs when Russell closed their factory soon after the workers had unionized," according to Steven Greenhouse of the N.Y. TIMES. Since Russell shut the factory in January, the anti-sweatshop coalition “orchestrated a nationwide campaign against the company.” The group “persuaded the administrations of Boston College, Columbia, Harvard, New York University, Stanford, Michigan, North Carolina and 89 other colleges and universities to sever or suspend their licensing agreements with Russell.” Analysts indicated that the college market “occupies a significant part of Russell’s business.” Greenhouse notes not only did the company “agree to reinstate the dismissed workers and open a new plant in Honduras as a unionized factory, it also pledged not to fight unionization at its seven existing factories there.” Univ. of Miami Assistant VP/Auxiliary Services Mel Tenen said, “This paves the way for us to seriously consider reopening our agreement with Russell.” Greenhouse notes other colleges are “expected to do the same” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/18).

STUDENT ACTION: In Madison, Todd Finkelmeyer reported the Univ. of Wisconsin’s Labor Licensing Policy Committee Friday voted to recommend that Chancellor Biddy Martin “start taking steps to end the university’s apparel contract with Nike, Inc. due to alleged labor rights abuses at two of the company’s factories.” The recommendation comes after two Nike factories that produce collegiate apparel in Honduras were “shuttered early in 2009 without paying legally mandated severance and back pay to some 1,800 workers.” The committee’s vote -- which “came under the urging of the Student Labor Action Coalition -- is strictly advisory” (Wisconsin State JournaL, 11/17).

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