Local News

UNC to cut ties with apparel firm over sweatshops

Posted March 6, 2009

— University of North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp said Friday the the school would end its licensing contract with an apparel firm next year because of labor violations.

The working conditions at Russell Athletic plants in Honduras didn't meet requirements UNC set a decade ago, he said. Russell makes and sells apparel with the UNC logo.

Thorp said the company's contract expires next March. If the company can document its plants meet the university's labor standards, UNC might consider renewing its license in April 2010.

"I do not take ending a partnership with a longtime licensee lightly," he wrote in a memo. "However, our expectations for our licensees are clear: Comply with our labor code and the protections it affords to the people who make these logoed products if you want to do business with Carolina."


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  • RowdyFriend Mar 6, 2009

    I would like to see all UNC licensed apparel being manufactured in North Carolina. Even though the price point would be higher, there would be fewer Walmart-level fans running around in $5 Tarheel hats. Raise the bar, Chapel Hill. You've diminished your own product enough already.

  • lilloan Mar 6, 2009

    claytontarheel, tarheel merchandise is amongst the highest selling of COLLEGE apparel but not of apparel in the US. For that they are in line behind NYY, Red Sox, Dodgers, Braves, Packers, Cowboys, Patriots, Celtics, Lakers, Cavaliers, 49ers, Raiders, Giants, Heat, Knicks, Bears, Rangers, Flyers, Ohio State, LSU, Michigan, USC, UCLA....the list goes on....actually they are nowhwere near the top:)

  • See Chart Mar 6, 2009

    I like the Russell apologists not even mentioning the
    loss of USA jobs buy moving to Honduras,I guess 75 dollars
    for some of these sweat shirts made abroad is mo profit for
    Russell.Surprised the anti-liberal moaners here didn't comment
    on the loss of jobs here for way over there.
    I for one will boycott Russell and no i am not union.
    Russell come on back home where you all belong.

  • SANDHILL Mar 6, 2009

    It took 10 years to figure out that companies open these offshore plants so they can run a sweat shop, and not pay much for labor??

  • ihateliberals Mar 6, 2009

    Thanks psmolowitz for providing additional information. Workers should be treated fairly, but please, this article was far from detailed enough to allow an informed opinion - either positive or negative. Give more facts WRAL.

  • colliedave Mar 6, 2009

    It's all about feelings. Now workers who were making a decent wage in relation to others in their area will have no money to feed their children.

  • psmolowitz Mar 6, 2009

    I work with Russell, and I’d like to respond to the false accusation that we closed this plant because it was unionized. We had already recognized this plant’s union status for more than a year before announcing the closure. The Fair Labor Association, as well as an independent report it commissioned both agreed: it was imperative for us to close one of our three plants in Honduras because of the global economic slowdown. The independent report also confirmed the two reasons why we chose this plant in particular: 1) The need for products sewn there was lower than any of our other factories in Honduras. And 2) it was the only one with a lease we could vacate immediately, which saved us $2 million.

    Once people see all the facts in this case, they come to a different conclusion. Princeton University, for example, decided to continue its merchandising relationship with Russell Athletic, saying, “The decision to close this factory was driven by economic conditions.”

  • smirza Mar 6, 2009

    Actually what happened is Russell cost 1800 workers their jobs by shutting down a union factory in retribution for workers organizing a union. So Russell violated the workers' right to organize, which is in UNC's codes of conduct. So no, USAS didn't cost workers their job, Russell did-- and the workers themselves asked for this solidarity. They don't appreciate you speaking for them, either.


  • See Chart Mar 6, 2009

    Gee it must be in the water as I just read the same
    news on the NYU website that that school also stopped
    dealing with Russell. Seams (pardon the pun) that the
    workers in Honduras wanted to Unionize and they were
    fired for trying to unionize,wow they should work here
    in NC ,don't have to worry bout Union's too much here.
    Russell come home to the USA we need jobs here!! Then we can say we bought and made it in the USA.

  • itsnotmeiswear Mar 6, 2009

    I think UNC is the number one or certainly one of the top merchandise licensing machines in the US. My guess is that Russell does what it needs to satisfy what are probably limited requirements. If I'm reading the article correctly, they have a year to get it done.