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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Shelton keeps contract intact

    UA President Robert Shelton said there are no immediate plans to terminate the University of Arizona’s contract with Russell Athletics Corporation, which has been accused of violating the UA’s Labor Code of Conduct.

    Representatives from Russell Athletics flew in from Atlanta, Ga. yesterday to meet with Shelton and members of the UA Sweatshop-Free Coalition.

    The company, licensed to manufacture apparel bearing the UA logo, was accused by the Worker Rights Consortium of shutting down an apparel factory in Cholomas, Honduras because workers tried to organize labor unions.

    Matt Murphy, Russell Athletics senior vice president of sales, said the Jerzees de Honduras factory was closed, but strictly for economic reasons.

    “”When we made the decision to close Jerzees de Honduras, there was a series of global economic conditions as well as some financial considerations for why that plant had to be the plant,”” Murphy said. “”It was a very difficult decision because we were trying to work with the union.””

    Shelton said the discussion with Russell representatives left him hopeful for the future.

    “”I thought it was a wonderful open exchange of information,”” Shelton said. “”People acknowledged that this is a difficult situation. They have plans to improve and we have to see just how much (we) can work with them.””

    Murphy said the Labor Code of Conduct was not violated because there was no suppression of union activities prior to the plant’s closure, although he said threatening comments passed between workers may have slipped by unnoticed.

    “”It would be disingenuous to say that we controlled every bit of those conversations, and we can’t deny some of those allegations that there was an anti-union environment,”” Murphy said. “”However, we certainly accept the responsibility of management and control of those facilities, and we have to work as hard as we can not to allow any of that cultural anti-union animus.””

    Former Jerzees de Honduras factory workers Norma Estela Meija Castellanos and Mirna Lizeth Chavarria Lopez, who were on campus Tuesday, said they had received death threats and other warnings from other workers at the plant.

    Catherine Gammon, Russell Athletics senior director of corporate communications, said there had been absolutely no anti-union sentiment voiced by senior management at the plant.

    “”The primary reason that the facility closed was economic conditions,”” Gammon said.

    Murphy added that the Worker Rights Consortium assessment of the plant was unbalanced because it looked only at the union and did not take any economic factors into consideration.

    “”We have been very successful in the past based on operating principles that are based solely on people, respect for people,”” Murphy said. “”Those principles are on our Web site, they’re posted, they’re preached, they’re preached very aggressively at every facility with every management team.””

    For now, Shelton said, the UA will wait.

    “”My plans are to sit and think about this a lot, to continue to talk with the students, and then see how the timeline plays out, because (Russell Athletics’ parent company) Fruit of the Loom has a lot of things in place down there and I want to see if they can do it,”” Shelton said.

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