UCI Radical Student Union’s Russell Sweatshop Campaign

Labor Rights Violations are not an April Fools’ Joke
Students demand that UC Regents and UCI cut contracts with Russell


April 1, 2009 – At approximately 1pm today, 25 students representing United Students Against
Sweatshops (USAS), Radical Student Union (RSU), Worker Student Alliance (WSA), and
Muslim Student Union (MSU) at the University of California at Irvine delivered a letter to
Chancellor Michael V. Drake’s office demanding that UCI and the UC Regents immediately
terminate UC’s licensing agreement with Russell Athletic and all other business relations with the

In a related action today, 10 students placed over 200 fliers in Russell apparel in the UCI
Bookstore, urging consumers to boycott Russell because of labor violations committed by the
company. Both actions were part of a UC-wide coordinated day of action, including the
Riverside, Santa Barbara, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and UCLA campuses, in addition to UCI.
To date, 25 major universities have announced their decisions to end or not renew their contracts
with the clothing company because of its violation of Honduran apparel workers’ right to form a
union. Two other schools have ended discussions to reach licensing agreements with Russell.
The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a labor rights investigative organization with which 185
colleges and universities including UCI and the other UCs are affiliated, found that Russell
closed the Honduras plant in response to workers’ decision to unionize. Another labor rights
group with which UCI is affiliated, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), has also issued a report
supporting the WRC’s findings.

The WRC report on Russell Athletic’s violation of university codes of conduct in its treatment of
workers at the plant triggered actions by USAS chapters all over the United States. USAS
sponsored a multi-campus tour by two of the fired Honduran workers and campus chapters called
upon their university administrations to enforce code of conduct clauses in their contracts with
the company. Russell continues to deny the WRC report’s conclusions.
“Russell Athletic has clearly violated the terms of UC’s Code of Conduct and has broken
Honduran laws in its firing of union organizers; some of the clothes being sold in UCI’s
bookstore were produced in this very factory,” said John Bruning, member of USAS, RSU, and
WSA. “Chancellor Drake has voiced his commitment to workers rights for AFSCME and
OneSource workers on campus. But if that commitment is to mean anything, he needs to act
promptly to defend the rights of all workers associated with the university, whether they are
groundskeepers, graduate students, or work in factories producing UCI goods.”
RSU member Cristina Flores added, “As students at this university, we feel proud to wear UCI
shirts because of the education we are receiving. But when we find out that UCI clothing is
made in sweatshops, it’s hard to feel proud, knowing that the UCI name and logos are tied to
horrendous working conditions. Therefore, we are urging UCI and the UC Regents to cut the
contract with Russell until Russell can prove its respect for workers’ rights and our university’s
Code of Conduct.”

Universities that have taken action so far include: University of Miami, Georgetown University,
University of Houston, Duke University, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin,
Columbia University, Rutgers, Purdue University, Pennsylvania State University, University of
Michigan, Cornell University, Harvard, and New York University. Eight of the schools with
teams in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament have cut their contracts with Russell.


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