By Andrea Hammer
Assistant Campus Editor, The Purdue Exponent
Publication Date: 11/06/2009
Eight students with Purdue Organization for Labor Equality marched to the University president’s office reception area with a “gift” of $2 and a half million in play money Thursday and were later removed from the building by University police.
In support of labor equality, the students marched into Hovde Hall and went to President France Córdova’s office to make their concerns known. Organization member Dan Kercher, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, said the organization found out about a violation of Purdue’s Code of Conduct with apparel licenses at two factories in Honduras.
According to the Worker Rights Consortium, the factories, which produced Nike apparel, were closed by subcontractors without any kind of warning to workers. The workers were owed $2.5 million in severance pay when the factories were shut down. The equipment was liquidated, providing the workers with a small portion of their money, but they are still owed more than $2.1 million.
After reading a page-long letter detailing their grievances, students dumped the play money on the floor of the reception area. An administrator insisted that he would take the letter, but said the students needed to leave. When the students were asked to pick up the play money, they refused.
Gautam Kumaraswamy, a junior in the College of Engineering and a member of the organization, said the students were under the impression they were in a public place because they were in a reception area and they did not want the play money back.
“What we put down in there is what we gave to the University,” he said.
After handing over the letter, students were ordered to leave the building by Purdue Police.
Brian Napoletano, a graduate student who participated, said letting sweatshops produce clothing with the Purdue logo on it is sending the wrong message.
“By letting them use the Purdue logo, they’re representing Purdue,” he said.
Purdue Police Chief John Cox said he supports freedom of speech, but students must be within University policies with their events and protests.
“They can work with space management to arrange the use of space,” he said.
Purdue spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg said this breach of contract by Nike will be handled the same way as last year’s incident with Russell Athletics. After investigating claims of labor inequality brought forth by the Organization for Labor Equality last year, Purdue cut ties with Russell.
“This has just been brought to our attention,” Norberg said. “We have a committee that will look at it.”