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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Labor pains

    Don’t expect Russell Athletics apparel to don the shelves of the UA Bookstores for much longer.

    After several months of deliberation, President Robert Shelton has notified the Russell Athletics Corporation that the UA will terminate its trademark licensing agreement with the apparel giant.

    The decision came after a June 29 report from the Free Labor Association (FLA) found that the Russell Corporation was not taking adequate steps to ensure the rights of its workers at the Jerzees de Honduras factory.

    In an April interview with the Daily Wildcat, officials from the Atlanta-based company maintained that the factory’s closure was strictly for economic reasons and did not reflect anti-union sentiments on the part of the factory’s management, nor Russell Athletics. However, the report issued by the FLA contends otherwise.

    Specifically, the report identified several areas where Russell was neglecting the rights of its employees.

    The report points out that Russell has so far failed to engage in good faith negotiations with workers’ unions on issues like compensation for terminated employees and has not played an active role in educating workers about their freedom of association rights.

    The report states, “”These circumstances have led to a high level of distrust among workers and other stakeholders of Russell’s commitment to freedom of association.””

    In addition, the report accuses Russell of not engaging with representatives of civil society in Honduras.

    Due to its failure to comply with FLA standards and regulations, Russell Athletics is being placed on a 90-day special review period where corporation will either have to get on board with the FLA or face possible expulsion from the organization along with its lost contract with the UA.

    In order to be removed from Special Review Status, Russell will have to engage in good faith negotiations with the workers’ unions regarding further compensation and benefits for factory workers, discipline managers who impede the rights of workers and ensure the removal of any obstacles to freedom of association.

    Catherine Gammon, Russell’s senior director of corporate communications, stressed that while Russell did not meet the FLA’s standards in Honduras, the corporation is making progress in implementing the remediation plan that it was placed on in April 2009.

    “”I feel that once we complete these steps, we will be a stronger leader in terms of social responsibility and will hopefully be able to rebuild relationships with our collegiate partners,”” Gammon said.

    In a letter sent to Rick Medlin, executive vice president of Fruit of the Loom, Russell’s parent corporation, Shelton made it clear that the university will not maintain a trademark agreement with a company that is in violation of its workers’ rights.

    “”The university believes that the FLA has provided Russell with a fair and reasonable time to demonstrate substantial compliance with its required remediation plan,”” Shelton wrote in the letter. “”Unfortunately Russell failed to demonstrate full implementation as required.””

    While Shelton’s decision will end the licensing agreement with Russell that was set to expire in March of 2010, Shelton maintained that Russell’s full implementation of the FLA-required remediation plan could be grounds for reinstatement of the contract. “”Following positive reports from the FLA and other labor organizations regarding Russell’s progress on improving the freedom of association rights of workers, the university may reconsider its decision to suspend Russell as a trademark license,”” Shelton wrote in the letter.

    In the meantime, the university will have to look elsewhere to market and sell its apparel.

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