Dear President Aoun,
We, the Progressive Student Alliance and members of the United Students Against Sweatshops, are writing to alert you that Nike, which manufactures Northeastern University apparel, is barring Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) inspectors from accessing its factories. The WRC – of which Northeastern is a member – is an independent labor rights monitoring organization that conducts investigations of working conditions in factories around the globe. Nike is the industry leader, and we fear that if Nike is allowed to bar independent inspectors, other companies will follow suit. This sets a dangerous precedent and risks the rapid deterioration of the WRC as an effective voice for factory safety.
Nike has demonstrated itself unable or unwilling to self-police. In fact, it was violations at a Nike factory in Mexico that led colleges and universities to take action to ensure independent monitoring in the first place. With the WRC barred from Nike factories, there is no way of knowing if Northeastern’s Nike apparel is being made under sweatshop conditions.
The Northeastern University licensing policy guarantees “that all products bearing Northeastern’s name are manufactured by socially and ethically responsible vendors that comply with fair labor standards, as defined by […] the Workers Rights Consortium.” In order to uphold these standards, Northeastern University calls for “careful monitoring of products carrying our marks,” a responsibility the WRC has traditionally carried out. It is clear that Nike’s recent actions violate many of the principles delineated in Northeastern University’s licensing policy.
In alignment with this policy and Northeastern’s core values, further steps must be taken against Nike. You have said that Northeastern must be a “model for society.” In accordance with that vision, the Progressive Student Alliance is calling on Northeastern University to cut its contract with Nike. We are proud that Northeastern has stood on the side of garment workers in the past, most notably by cutting a contract with Adidas over its sweatshop conditions. We look forward to meeting soon to discuss the urgency and absolute necessity of cutting Northeastern’s contract with Nike.
– Pratik Dubey is a freshman political science major writing on behalf of the Northeastern University Progressive Student Alliance and the United Students Against Sweatshops Local 115.
*This letter has been updated to correct the writer’s last name.
Photo courtesy Maxime FORT, Creative Commons.