President Bowles : Cut Russell Athletic!
Dear President Bowles, I am writing to ask that you end any licensing agreements with Russell Athletic on behalf of all UNC system schools. The Labor Licensing Code Advisory Committee to the Chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill decided earlier this month to advise Chancellor Thorp against the renewal of UNC's contract with Russell at the end of March. The following day on March 5, Chancellor Thorp accepted the committee's recommendation and publicly announced that UNC would end its business with Russell effective March 31, 2009. The decision was based on the reports of the Worker Rights Consortium and the Fair Labor Association, both of which concluded that Russell Athletic violated UNC's labor codes of conduct. The investigations began when Russell closed one of its apparel factories, Jerzees de Honduras, after its workers attempted to join a union. The decision resulted in the loss of nearly 2,000 jobs. Prior to the factory closure, workers received death threats and faced constant intimidation as they tried to exercise their associational rights. Factory managers also explicitly threatened the workers that the factory would close if they tried to unionize. Because hostility towards the exercise of workers basic human rights played a significant role in the factory closure decision, Russell is in direct violation of university codes of conduct. UNC is now among the 20 other universities to end its business with Russell since the factory closure on January 31, 2009. UNC-Chapel Hill ended its business with Russell on March 31, and I urge you to end all UNC system schools' business with the company by this date. UNC-Chapel Hill has shown through its actions that it takes human rights violations seriously. By broadening the contract cut to the other 15 UNC schools with whom Russell does business, the entire university system will show that it shares the same moral convictions.