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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Factory may violate UA code

    You may love your old UA sweatshirt, but a new report suggests that it might have come from a factory where workers have been denied basic labor rights in violation of the UA’s Labor Code of Conduct.

    Atlanta-based Russell Athletics Corporation, which makes sweatshirts and other apparel items bearing the UA logo, shut down the Jerzees de Honduras factory in Choloma, Honduras because workers in those factories attempted to organize union labor, according to a November 2008 report by Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights monitoring group.

    The factory closure left 1,800 people out of work.

    The report claims Russell Athletics breached its contract with Collegiate Licensing Company, which handles licensing contracts for the UA. The contract was last renewed in August 2007 and is set to expire in March 2010.

    The contract stipulates that Russell Athletics allow its employees the right to organize labor unions. However, the Worker Rights Consortium report claims the Honduras factory was closed primarily because of employees’ efforts to organize.

    Two former Jerzees de Honduras workers, Norma Estela Meija Castellanos and Mirna Lizeth Chavarria Lopez, along with members of the UA’s Sweatshop-Free Coalition, hosted a press conference yesterday morning in the Agave Room of the Student Union Memorial Center, where they told their stories and sent a plea for help from the UA.

    “”(Russell Athletics) has left us in the streets,”” Castellanos said through a translator. “”It’s an incredible shame, it’s an incredible violation what Russell is doing now. To them, it’s like we’ve committed a crime against them, like we’ve done something wrong.””

    Castellanos and Lopez are currently on a tour of American universities with Russell Athletics contracts. The tour is being funded by the national advocacy group United Students Against Sweatshops.

    University President Robert Shelton did not think cutting the contract was an effective solution but agreed to reach a more definite conclusion within a month, said Brian Marks, a spokesman for Sweatshop-Free Coalition.

    Shelton has been under increasing pressure from the Sweatshop-Free Coalition and the Faculty Labor Task Force to address the situation, Marks said.

    “”My next step is to meet with folks from Fruit-of-the-Loom (Russell Athletics parent company),”” Shelton said in an email. “”With that range of information and perspectives, I will be in a position to take a decision. The UA will continue to include code of conduct conditions in its licensing agreements and will review and investigate thoroughly situations that arise.””

    Assistant Athletic Director in the Department of Trademarks and Licensing James Francis did not return the Daily Wildcat’s calls for comment in time for print.

    Under the Collegiate Licensing – Russell Athletics contract, the only authorized oversight agency for labor rights issues is the Fair Labor Association, although the UA is also a member of the Worker Rights Consortium. The Fair Labor Association has mixed reports on the issue, Marks said.

    Although not stated in the Worker Rights Consortium report, Castellanos and Lopez also said that Jerzees de Honduras set daily quotas of 1,572 sweatshirts per worker, forcing employees to work 11 hour shifts seven days a week without being paid overtime. If true, these allegations also constitute a violation of the UA Labor Code of Conduct.

    According to a press release from the Sweatshop-Free Coalition, 27 American universities have already terminated contracts with Russell Athletics.

    Castellanos said she and many other workers received death threats and other warnings prior to the factory’s closure.

    “”We felt very afraid,”” she said. “”It started to seem like Russell was a giant monster and we could do nothing.””

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