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12E.6.5c Landmark Agreement Advances the Rights of Workers Who Sew Apparel for American and Canadian Universities

Excerpts from a press release from United Students Against Sweatshops announcing their successful campaign to pressure Nike to sign a factory access agreement with Worker Rights Consortium.
United Students Against Sweatshops
2017
Document

United Students Against Sweatshop Workers. "Landmark Agreement Advances the Rights of Workers Who Sew Apparel for American and Canadian Universities." Press release. 2017.

What do you notice about the contrast between sources 4 and 5? Note the date of this press release — 2017, close to 20 years after Nike’s updated code of conduct. What does this tell you about Nike’s determination or its success in holding its contractors to fair labor practices? Given what you’ve read about the choices made by Georgetown University and University of California, what role do you think the consumer has in responding to these reports of workers’ rights violations? In a global economy where there is no mechanism for enforcing international labor standards, who, if anyone, should take responsibility for ensuring labor rights? What level of responsibility does a factory and its country have for guaranteeing labor rights? Is it acceptable to make workers’ rights less important than profit? What does this source tell you about how individual workers are affected by global business?
The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) is an independent monitoring group that assesses labor rights in workplaces around the world to ensure that university apparel is made under fair labor conditions. The WRC was established in 2000 by universities, international labor rights experts, and student groups. The United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a member of this consortium. Students may want to compare the WRC to other international organizations that attempt to safeguard workers in the era of globalization (such as the United Nations / International Labour Organization). Consider using this source as an opportunity to discuss with students the criticism of globalization that it exacerbates inequality in the world, allowing multinational corporations like Nike to turn great profits while the workers and factory management enjoy a tiny fraction of the same profits.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30, 2017
Contact
Angeles Solis, International Campaigns Coordinator, angeles@usas.org, 509.793.6460
Student: Ana Jimenez, Cornell University, aaj43@cornell.edu, 347.651.4693


Two-year campaign on university campuses achieves unprecedented result…

LANDMARK AGREEMENT ADVANCES THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS WHO SEW APPAREL
FOR AMERICAN & CANADIAN UNIVERSITIES

....The USAS effort helped gain Nike’s acquiescence to a one-time WRC investigation at Hansae that produced a finding of numerous serious violations of apparel workers’ rights including wage theft, the firing of pregnant women, and repeated fainting due to intolerably high temperatures inside the factory. The WRC report undermined Nike’s claims about the adequacy of its self-monitoring regime that had given a clean slate to conditions at Hansae over a ten-year period...

Nike tried to turn back the clock on twenty years of fundamental labor compliance by barring independent inspectors’ access to its 680 subcontracted factories. Students and workers launched a global campaign that forced Nike to reverse its position. With pressure from schools like Georgetown University and the University of Washington among others, Nike has committed to return to its obligations under agreements it has with many universities requiring it to allow the Worker Rights Consortium to conduct inspections as needed. This campaign serves as a reminder that even the largest sports apparel company in the world can be forced into compliance with labor rights standards by the combined efforts of students and garment workers, said Angeles Solis, USAS’ labor rights campaign coordinator...

USAS’s “Just Do the Right Thing” & “Just Cut It” Campaign 2016-2017

Georgetown University

Nike and Georgetown have a longstanding relationship. Renowned retired basketball coach, John Thompson Jr., sits on the Board of Nike and the school has the largest Nike Air Jordan contract of any university in the country. Former Hoyas point guard, Michael Jackson, is now the Vice President and General Manager of North America Basketball for Nike, and a number of Georgetown Athletes are now in professional leagues with Nike sponsorships. However, Georgetown is also a founding member of the WRC and has held a seat on it’s board since its formation in 2001. Despite their sponsored gear, student athletes stepped up to lead the Nike campaign on their campus - demanding the school stay true to its Jesuit values by organizing campus actions. Their campaign escalated to a 30 hour student occupation of President DeGioia’s office, where university administration conceded to only renew Nike’s license if the company agreed to WRC monitoring. In August of 2017, Georgetown finalized an agreement between NIKE Inc. and the Workers Rights Consortium on standards of independent access and remediation of Nike supplier factories. The protocol is legally binding once instituted into university licensing agreements, as Georgetown has on August 30th of 2017...

Cal’s athletics program used to be sponsored by Nike. In August, Cal switched its sponsorship to UnderArmour in a 10 year agreement worth $86 million (Source). UCLA’s athletics program used to be sponsored by Adidas. Last May, UCLA switched its sponsorship to UnderArmour, signing a 15 year agreement worth $280 million and estimated to be the biggest sponsorship deal in NCAA history (Source). The University of California system-wide ACTL equivalent recently adopted a policy on March 17, 2016, requiring licensees to “give the University or its Licensing Agent(s) and/or NGOs free and full access to all facilities, materials, and records that may be relevant to such investigation” (page 6)...