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Recent News
UW COMMITTEE VOTES TO SUPPORT GARMENT WORKERS’ RIGHTS

December 4, 2009 - The Advisory Committee for Trademarks & Licensing (ACTL) voted Thursday to officially advise President Emmert to put NIKE on notice for outstanding violations of the UW’s Code of Conduct, which gives NIKE thirty days to rectify the situation or the UW will terminate its contractual agreement with NIKE. The Code of Conduct violations are based on NIKE’s unwillingness to ensure that workers received legally owed severance payments of 2.1 million dollars after two factories in Honduras producing UW apparel were closed down in January 2009. Students from the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) and members of ACTL argued that NIKE’s inaction constituted a Code of Conduct violation as NIKE, according to the Code, is responsible for the conduct of “all the Licensee’ contractors, subcontractors or manufacturers which produce, assemble or package finished Licensed Articles for the consumer”, and that NIKE’s inability to ensure that their employees were provided with “legally mandated benefits” as stated in the Code constitutes a clear violation… “Our University’s action and Russell’s response sets a precedent that threatening to terminate a contract with a licensee is the best way to ensure that our Code of Conduct is upheld and workers get paid,” Isabel Brown said. “The Russell case provides a template for how the University should respond to Code of Conduct violations in NIKE’s supply chain. By recommending that President Emmert put NIKE on notice, ACTL agreed that the best way to enforce the Code of Conduct is to put NIKE on notice. ACTL has taken a step forward: now it’s up to President Emmert to follow through with their recommendation.”

“Upholding The Code” The Daily of the University of Washington
SOLIDARITY WITH UNJUSTLY FIRED SBM WORKERS

On the tenth anniversary of the landmark protests against the WTO in 1999, UW SLAP joined Washington Immigrant Rights Action Coalition (WA-IRAC) and others in protesting the firing of over 150 immigrant workers by Seattle Building Maintenance. The mass firings were conducted using the highly flawed E-Verify System, and amount to a virtual form of the brutal ICE raids that have been slowing in the last year. The firings have had just as devastating an effect on workers, their families and labor rights as the Bush administration raids. The protest demanded that SBM owner Peter Weissbach halt the firings, respect the employee’s contracts and meet with all the affected workers.

STUDENTS FEAR THAT UW’S CLOSE TIES TO NIKE WILL DAMPEN EFFORTS TO PROTECT GARMENT WORKER RIGHTS

November 21, 2009 – On Friday students learned that UW Vice Provost Phyllis Wise was appointed as a director on the corporate board of Nike. This announcement comes as SLAP continues to demand that the UW take immediate action against Nike for labor rights abuses in Honduras. In October 2008, the factories Hugger de Honduras and Vision Tex closed without providing 1800 workers over $2.1 million with legally mandated severance pay. From 2007 up until their closure, Nike listed these factories as suppliers of collegiate apparel and listed the UW as one of 41 universities receiving the product. Since Nike sourced UW apparel from these factories, Nike is violation of the UW Code of Conduct, which contractually requires UW apparel licensees to ensure basic labor rights guarantees for all workers within the supply chains used to produce UW apparel. As soon as the factories closed, SLAP put pressure on the UW administration to take strong and immediate action against Nike. In response, President Emmert established a committee to deliberate and provide recommendations to the President about the Code of Conduct violations within Nike’s collegiate apparel supply chain, known as the Advisory Committee for Trademarks and Licensing (ACTL)… With the appointment of Phyllis Wise to the Nike corporate board of directors, students fear that the UW’s relationship with Nike will prevent the UW from standing up to labor rights violations in Nike’s supply chain. Despite continued student pressure over the years, the UW has yet to force Nike to uphold the UW Code of Conduct. This is compounded by the findings of The Worker Rights Consortium; an independent labor rights monitoring organization that has investigated and found labor rights violations in 11 different factories that produce Nike collegiate apparel since 2006. “The appointment of Phyllis Wise to the Nike corporate board of directors is really troubling,” said Maggie Schupp, member of SLAP. “Whose interests will the Vice Provost represent? The students, staff, faculty and community of the UW or Nike’s?”

STUDENTS CELEBRATE VICTORY FOR UW GARMENT WORKERS

Russell Athletic and workers’ union in Honduras announce historic agreement to reopen closed factory November 19, 2009 – On Tuesday students announced a historic victory in the anti-sweatshop movement. In an unprecedented move, Russell Athletic, agreed to reopen its Jerzees de Hondruas factory that had shut down after workers’ successfully unionized and attempted to bargain with Russell. The closure in October 2008 violated the UW Code of Conduct, which protects the rights of workers that produce UW logo apparel. In response, the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), an affiliate of the United Students Against Sweatshops, successfully pressured the UW to sever its contract with Russell in February 2009 and took part in the largest anti-sweatshop campaign in the history of modern student activism. Before Tuesday’s historic agreement, nearly 100 universities in the United States successfully severed their collegiate apparel contracts with Russell in support of the union, known as Sitrajerzeesh … For SLAP, this agreement could not have been reached at a better time. SLAP is pressuring the UW to take action against Nike after 1800 workers were laid off at two factories in Honduras without receiving their legally due severance. Since these factories produced UW logo apparel for Nike, the $2.1 million in unpaid severance constitutes a violation of the UW Code of Conduct. Although president Emmert set up the Advisory Committee to Trademarks and Licensing last spring in order to address the Code of Conduct violation, no action has been taken.”

“Labor Fight Ends in Win for Students,” New York Times
UW Regents ignore workers rights in $35 million 10 year Nike Contract
UW SLAP holds mock baseball game to stop abuses of U.S. garment workers

On November 6th, members of the University of Washington Student Labor Action Project staged a mock baseball game in protest over union-busting at a New Era cap factory in Mobile, Alabama. Workers at the New Era factory in Alabama first tried to form a union in response to unhealthy working conditions, unannounced and sometimes forced overtime, low wages, and racial discrimination. Students from the UW heard about this case from United Students Against Sweatshops, and after speaking to the workers on a conference call, UW SLAP decided to hold the mock baseball game. The purpose of the demonstration was to raise awareness on campus about what is happening in Alabama, and to get the UW Administration to pressure the New Era Cap Company – a university licensee – to take action to end the workers' rights abuses at their factory.

The event started with a student commentator informing SLAP's audience in Red Square that the game between the UW Huskies and union workers versus the New Era management was in the bottom the ninth inning. The Huskies were at bat with the bases loaded, and after a tense showdown with the New Era pitcher, UW President Mark Emmert hit a grand-slam to win the game, bringing the workers' home and protecting the rights of the union. After the victory, SLAP invited passersby and students who were watching, to join them in a letter delivery to President Emmert's office. "We're asking President Emmert to follow up on the important work and progress the University has made in standing up for workers' rights, by telling New Era to rehire fired workers in Alabama and end labor abuses in their factories," said Stephanie Adler, a junior Program on the Environment major. "We have every reason to believe that the Administration will take swift action on this issue, as President Emmert responded so quickly to an earlier violation of our school's code of conduct in the Dominican Republic," said April Nishimura, UW SLAP member and a senior majoring in International Studies.

SLAP wrote to President Emmert at the beginning of fall quarter about disturbing reports of workers' rights abuses at a Russel Athletic factory in the Dominican Republic called Jerzees Choloma, which produces Husky apparel. President Emmert responded quickly to this issue, and as a result of pressure from the UW and other colleges around the country, Russell Athletic committed to ensuring that the union members were rehired and that workers' rights are respected at their factories in the Dominican Republic. "Our group really hopes that the Administration follows up on the New Era case in Alabama as quickly as they did with Jerzees Choloma," says April Nishimura. It is especially relevant Nishimura says, because one or more UW students will be visiting New Era workers next quarter as part of a USAS delegation to Alabama. According to Stephanie Adler, "it would give the workers in Mobile a lot of morale, if SLAP's representative on this delegation could tell them by January that the UW has already taken a stand against New Era." After January's visit, USAS organizers are potentially going to ask the workers in Alabama to participate in speaking events at college campuses across North America this Spring, with the UW as a possible tour stop.

After SLAP held its mock baseball game on campus, President Emmert wrote to the group a week later, saying that the UW's Trademarks and Licensing Office, along with the Licensing Advisory Committee, would be investigating the New Era complaint on behalf of the university. So far, these entities have made adequate progress in addressing this issue, but SLAP will be vigilant in monitoring the UW's response to the case, until it is fully resolved. To take online action in support of the New Era workers, click here.


UW tells Russell Athletic to clean up their act in the Dominican Republic!

At the beginning of Fall Quarter, SLAP wrote to UW President Mark Emmert about disturbing reports of workers' rights abuses at a factory that produces Husky apparel in the Domincian Republic, called Jerzees Choloma. According to United Students Against Sweatshops and the Worker Rights Consoritum, more than 20 workers at Jerzees Choloma were fired for their association with an independent union, and for filing a complaint about working conditions in the factory with management. On top of this, the management has recently threatened to close Jerzees Choloma, saying they would rather shut down their facility than accept the workers' union. Numerous violations of university codes of conduct have occurred at Jerzees Choloma, including forced overtime, verbal harassment of workers, horrible hygiene standards in restrooms, and the waging of an aggressive anti-union campaign by management. Additionally, a female worker faced job discrimination simply because she was pregnant. To read the Worker Rights Consortium's report on Jerzees Choloma, click here.

When SLAP learned that a UW licensee - Russell Athletic - was producing apparel at Jerzees Choloma, and that Russell had not taken any steps to address the injustices mentioned above, students decided to ask our school's Administration to intervene on behalf of the Dominican workers. President Emmert responded quickly to our letter and asked Eric Mosher, the UW's Director of Trademarks and Licensing, to handle the issue. On October 23rd, Mr. Mosher told SLAP that a letter had been sent to Russell, which said that they were in breach of their contract with the UW, and had 15 days to respond to the violations at Jerzees Choloma. As a result of this pressure from the UW and other colleges around the country, Russell Athletic is being forced to ensure that the union members are rehired and that workers' rights are respected at their factories in the Dominican Republic. SLAP applauds Mr. Mosher and President Emmert for taking swift action in support of the Dominican workers, and looks forward to working with the Administration on future cases involving violations of the UW's code of conduct.


Guatemala protest makes the P-I

Photo used with kind permission by Page Level

UW SLAP members recently participated in a demonstration at Macy's department store in downtown Seattle. The event was organized by the UW Guatemala Project, in order to protest the closure of two unionized garment factories in Guatemala. The following excerpt is taken from an October 14th Seattle Post-Intelligencer article:

'One by one, about six young women marched out of the downtown Macy's women's lounge Sunday afternoon wearing supersized garbage bags and little else, save the signs taped to their backs.

"I'd rather wear trash bags than Macy's sweatshop clothing," the signs read.

If there had been more room, they probably would have gone on to detail the plight of Guatemala's unionized garment factories -- the reason those young women and about 30 other activists waged a covert invasion of Macy's on Sunday.

Among the activists were University of Washington students devoting their college experience to helping workers at Cimatextiles and Choishin, two Guatemalan factories in Villa Nueva that manufacture clothes for Talbot's, Liz Claiborne and other brands sold at Macy's.

Owners closed Cimatextiles earlier this summer, displacing unionized workers and prompting students at the UW and Seattle University to rev up their campaign for improved factory conditions.'

You can read the full story here.


"American Vulture" protest

On October 7th, SLAP members held a protest at Seattle's American Eagle store. The goal of this demonstration was to bring attention to labor rights abuses at American Eagle's Canadian distribution contractor, National Logistics Services, where workers faced harassment and intimidation after seeking to improve their working conditions by forming a union. American Eagle's Code of Conduct for Contractors requires protection for freedom of association, and the abuses at National Logistics Services clearly violate this provision. UW SLAP's protest was coordinated with other student groups all around North America, as a part of an "American Vulture" week of action. Learn more here.


UW SLAP on the front page of P-I!

On June 18th, UW SLAP and other USAS activist groups in the Northwest recieved front page coverage in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, after successfully convincing our universities' administrations to adopt the Designated Suppliers Program. The following is an excerpt taken from the article:

'Soon, those sweat shirts with the UW logo stitched on the front will be available guilt-free.

Harkening back to the early days of the anti-apartheid movement, students at the University of Washington and college campuses across the country are protesting against overseas sweatshops and the U.S. companies trading with them.

The fair-labor mercenaries have taken aim close to home -- college apparel, most of which is churned out by Third World garment factories -- and notched a string of victories.

Earlier this month, Seattle University joined about 40 universities in committing to a "designated suppliers program" that requires companies producing the apparel sold on campus to establish long-term relationships with garment factories so workers can be guaranteed a "living wage."

Western Washington University committed to the program in April; the UW followed suit in May. The schools' decisions were motivated largely by at least a year of meetings and protests at the universities.'

You can read the full story here.