Guest post from Shanika Yapa, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum:

A full blown campaign is in effect to pressure Russell Athletics to respect the rights 6a00d8341bf90b53ef01156fd1bb55970b-800wiof workers at Jerzees de Honduras which is a Russell factory in Honduras.  Just a few weeks ago, NC State announced that they would be ending its contract with athletic clothing supplier Russell Athletics, because the corporation didn’t meet with the labor requirements set by UNC ten years earlier.  Harvard too has joined the cause and is among the18 schools affiliated with the Worker Rights Consortium that have dropped Russell because of the company’s freedom of association violations in its factories. According to Scott Nova, the executive director of the WRC, Russell Athletics is, “…well on their way to being the first company in history to be kicked out of collegiate sports because of their labor practices.”

In a report published by the ILRF last year, Russell Corporation was recognized one of the five worst companies to associate with.  The Russell apparel factory in Honduras has been under fire about its disregard towards workers’ legal right to form a union. Union members have faced lay-offs, threats from management and supervisors (a report by the Workers Rights Consortium reported at least 70 incidents where workers were threatened), and last year, the factory closed down due to issues with forming unions.  One worker in the factory said that, a manager had cautioned the workers, stating that, “This factory is going to close because of the union… The workers will starve because they got involved with the union.”

Russell Corporation, and Fruit of the Loom, its parent company has also been questioned of using child harvested cotton for its production of t-shirts, and Russell unlike most other major brands and retailers haven’t taken a stand against stopping the use of child labor in the cotton industry in Uzbekistan – one of the world’s largest producers of cotton.

Russell’s anti-union attitude has lead to most schools including UNC, Harvard, Penn State, Duke, Rutgers, Columbia and the University of Michigan to drop their contracts with the company until the labor issues have been dealt with and the workers are supported in their choice to form unions.

While it’s true that large institutions have a bigger impact and can corner Russell Corporation into reversing their position on the right to unionize with ease, you too can take a stand for a worker’s right to unionize.

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