Rutgers University Students Against Sweatshops march to Old Queens
Last Friday, about 24 student activists from the group, Rutgers University Students Against Sweatshops, marched to Old Queens hoping to speak to University President Robert L. Barchi regarding Nike’s recent labor practices.
The student-led activism group, which was joined by faculty and alumni during the march, works to expand the amount of Rutgers apparel sourced from ethical factories, according to a press release.
The group was protesting Nike, a company that Rutgers has an apparel contract with. It recently announced a decision to prevent a watchdog group from reviewing their factories.
“Last month, Nike refused members of the Workers’ Right Consortium, an independent factory-monitoring association, access to its factories, news which is indicative of potentially inhumane working conditions, as well as a breach of contract for this massive manufacturer,” reads the press release.
Nike also failed to disclose the locations of the factories that produce Rutgers apparel, according to the press release. The group is asking Barchi to place Nike on notice under the University’s licensing agreement and call on Nike to disclose the locations of factories producing Rutgers apparel.
The student group is also asking that Barchi provide Nike with a 90-day notice to reverse their policy to prevent access, according to the press release.
The group asked Barchi to terminate the University’s contract with the company if their demands are not met.
These laborers have the second-lowest wages among those who produce value for Rutgers University, said David Hughes, a professor in the Department of Anthropology, in an email.
“The football and basketball players receive the lowest wages — zero, that is. Ironically — as part of their unpaid jobs — sports workers wear the apparel and act as billboards for the very corporations underpaying workers overseas,” said Hughes, president of the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers.
Patrick Melillo, director of the President's Office at Rutgers, received the students' letter on Friday because Barchi was unavailable to meet, according to the press release. In the coming weeks, the group plans to meet with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Felicia McGinty and Rutgers—New Brunswick Chancellor Richard L. Edwards.
The group planned to meet with "lower-level administration" last April, according to an article in The Daily Targum.
Rutgers is also a member of the Worker's Rights Consortium, said University spokesperson E.J. Miranda in the article.
"We look forward to continuing to make progress with (the group) because Rutgers University has a long and proud history of supporting workers’ rights and promoting safe working conditions around the world," Miranda said.
Avalon Zoppo is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science. She is the managing editor of The Daily Targum. Find her on Twitter @avalonzoppo.