UO should hold Russell to ethical business standards
As a student of the University of Oregon, I believe that we should all be able to take pride in our school. Over the past year, I’ve felt my own pride ebb knowing that we retain a contract with Russell Athletic, whose business practices are not only unethical, but have violated international and Honduran law. Last year, Step Up, Oregon! fought to end our contract with Russell until it re-opened its factory in Honduras with the union intact. Though we failed to achieve this, we have not forgotten the worker’s rights abuses committed by Russell and will continue to make this an issue of importance on campus.
Our resolve was only strengthened this summer by a number of unfolding events. On June 25, the Fair Labor Association placed Russell on probation due to persistent abuses of worker’s rights in Honduras. Further complicating the situation in Honduras was the illegal military coup, occurring on June 28, in which democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya was deposed by the business elite of the country with the backing of the military.
Zelaya had recently raised minimum wage by 60 percent, as well as increased the rights of maquila workers. Zelaya’s reinstatement has been called for by every country in the world, including the U.S. Russell continues to exemplify its disregard for law and commitment to unethical practices by strongly backing the military coup, a surprising move considering that companies like Nike and Adidas, with less than perfect records on worker’s rights, have called for the immediate restoration of democracy in Honduras.
Our failure to cut the contract last year was due in large part to an Oregon University System ruling that stipulates that Oregon universities are unable to hold business partners to a code of conduct. This not only stymies the efforts of Step Up, Oregon!, but any future organizations that hope to make their university’s business practices more ethical. Not only will we move forward with this campaign by approaching President Richard Lariviere with our concerns, but we intend to challenge this OUS ruling as well by contacting current OUS board members, along with Oregon state legislators.
If you are interested in learning more about this important issue or taking part in Step Up, Oregon!, you can contact us at [email protected] or search for us on Facebook. We also hold open weekly meetings every Monday at 6 p.m. in EMU Century Room B.
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