May 18th, 2010

By Chris Zois
Roosevelt University Torch
April 19, 2010

Students protest out Niketown in Chicago

Students protest out Niketown in Chicago

Roosevelt students protested outside of Nike Town, a retail Nike store, on April 14 as part of United Students against Sweatshops “Just Pay It” campaign.

After the protest two Honduras garment workers, who have worked at Nike factories, spoke in Fainman Lounge later that day.

The protest was just one of the events the USAS has set up in order to get equal working conditions for Nike factory workers.

The event centered around the closing of two Honduras factories in early 2009. The workers are still owed back wages and legally mandated severance pay of $2.2 million.

In a press release from the university about the event it is reported that “Nike spent $3.4 Billion Dollars on endorsements in 2008. That means the money owed to workers in Honduras is less than .1[percent] of Nike’s annual endorsement commitments.”

Along with Roosevelt students, the protest also had students from DePaul University, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

Brian Brown, senior, said this event came together after they had met with members of the USAS.

“We had been organizing here [at Roosevelt] but it wasn’t until we talked to a member of the USAS that we started to look at the broader campaign as well,” Brown said.

Two Honduras garment workers, Gina Cano and Lowlee Urquia, held a discussion with students, discussing their experience for working for Nike factories following the protest.

Rod Palmquist, a member of USAS, said he, other members of USAS, Cano and Urquia are currently on a tour giving lectures to schools associated the “Just Pay It” campaign.

“We are going around to universities that are involved with our cause,” Palmquist said. “We want to show people that the working conditions need to be fair and the actions of Nike affect more than just the workers.”

According to the press release about the event, “The two factories, Hugger de Honduras and Vision Tex were shut down without notice in 2009. The Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) released a report exposing Nike’s hypocrisy in addressing the issue.”

Neither Cano nor Uquia speak English so their responses were translated for the audience.

Uquia said their pay was docked for health care and other amenities; however, he never received such benefits.

Both women said they have fellow co-workers who have passed away because they did not receive proper medical treatment.

Uquia said the factories’ closing has affected more than just the workers.

“These closings have affected our families and other factory workers families,” Cano said. “We got 26.5 percent of our severance but that is still not enough.”

Uquia said she had to take her children out of school because she could not afford to keep them there.

Palmquist said that these tours are geared to educate universities on the harsh conditions of the factories.

Palmquist said the University of Wisconsin-Madison has canceled its contract with Nike because of the factory’s working conditions.

The university is currently considering being affiliated with the WRC.

Brown said the university has talked to members of the WRC and Barnes & Noble in hopes of establishing a partnership.

Students at the University of Wisconsin Protest Nike’s Sweatshops

October 3rd, 2009

SLAC protests in chancellor’s office over sweatshop concerns
By Kelsey Gunderson

Published Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Student Labor Action Coalition protested at Chancellor Biddy Martin’s office Wednesday to voice their concerns with UW-Madison’s actions toward sweatshop conditions.

SLAC members gathered in Martin’s office and asked to speak with her regarding their concerns with clothing factories owned by Nike, who has an apparel contract with UW-Madison.

According to Daniel Cox, a UW-Madison student and SLAC organizer, Nike closed a factory in Honduras, fired their workers and refused to give them severance pay, which is prohibited under the code of conduct all apparel companies have with UW-Madison.

“The university is getting apparel from sweatshops with bad working conditions,” he said. “It reflects badly on the university and the students.”

Jonah Zinn, also a UW-Madison student and SLAC organizer, said UW-Madison plans to host a $50,000 educational program to inform the university’s licensees about the code of conduct regarding the treatment of workers in labor shops.

Zinn said SLAC was uncertain about the necessity of the program.

“We don’t think that these companies can really plead ignorance on the issue of the labor code of conduct,” he said. “By signing a legal document, they are aware of their actions and the implications.”

Zinn said aside from feeling the program was unwarranted, he was also concerned about where the funds were coming from.

According to Cox, SLAC submitted letters to Martin within the past month and never received a response.

However, both Cox and Zinn said they felt Martin listened to their concerns Wednesday and seemed willing to help take further action against sweatshop conditions.

“[Martin] was pretty respectful,” he said. “She expressed her concern and said that she would definitely take an active role once we have the official reports out.”

Cox said he hopes after today’s event, UW-Madison will take a stronger stance against sweatshops.

“The administration should lean on these companies and make sure that they are expected to follow the code of conduct which they are legally bound to, and if they do not, they should no longer have the opportunity of making [University of] Wisconsin apparel,” he said.

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