The University Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights has not asked the administration to suspend its contract with the New Era Cap Company despite evidence of labor violations in the company”s Derby, N.Y., factory.
The Worker Rights Consortium, a labor-monitoring association hired by the University, released a preliminary report on New Era in August citing “that there is at the very least substantial credible evidence of serious, and in some instances, ongoing non-compliance by New Era with codes of conduct and law.”
Advisory committee chair and Social Work Prof. Larry Root said the committee is not at the point to recommend that the University alter its contract.
“Supposedly within a week and a half we will receive more information, and if it turns out that they are in violation, then we”ll discuss what to do,” Root said.
New Era”s contract is renewed annually, and last fall it was renewed without labor violations being brought to the attention of the committee, he added.
“There is no reason to think the information we get from the WRC is not reliable,” said LSA sophomore and advisory committee member David Deeg. “We have more than enough information to act. The committee continually asking for more information is a sort of stall tactic.”
Deeg said he believes the administration does not want to suspend the New Era contract because it would compromise the University”s financial relationship with New Era.
Root said New Era feels the WRC conducted a biased investigation therefore, the advisory committee is giving New Era more time to provide a non-biased third party report.
Three universities, including Duke University, the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Georgetown University, did not renew their contracts with New Era because of labor problems, and the University of North Carolina renewed its contract for 90 days citing possible labor problems, Deeg said.
“Our yearly contract ran out at the end of October, and our administration did not renew it,” said Allison Brim, a Duke University student and member of Students Against Sweatshops. “The president of our university sent a letter to New Era telling them our contract will be suspended until the accusations about worker injustices are improved.”
Members of the University of Michigan campus group Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality took a trip to Derby to offer their support for striking New Era workers last weekend.
“The workers are being asked to take a $7 wage cut from the $13 wage they earned, and they just can”t afford that,” said LSA sophomore and SOLE member Jackie Bray said. “They have five times the incidence of injury than the industry standard.”
“We made a huge paper-mache hat on the Diag and had students sign cards showing solidarity for the striking workers,” said Mike Swiryn, RC sophomore and SOLE member. “We got to stand on the picket line with (the striking workers) and talk with them.”
Swiryn said he believes “this entire University has a responsibility to these people students want to see more progress.”
During a meeting last Friday, SOLE members asked the advisory committee to tell the administration to suspend the New Era contract until the labor problems are improved, Bray said.
“This is not a cut of the contract we”re asking for, just a suspension,” Deeg said. “There”s no reason when they fix the problems we couldn”t resume the contract.”
In the past, WRC reports have provided substantial evidence to suspend contracts and improve labor violations.
“The first report we received from the WRC on the situation with Nike in Kukdong was followed up with actions that ended up being a big success for everyone involved,” Deeg said.
“New Era won”t cooperate with the WRC, so they can”t release a final report,” Bray added. “But that shouldn”t mean we can”t take the same types of actions other universities have.”