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I haven’t posted much about the Russell Athletic story this last while, but I got an email yesterday from United Students Against Sweatshops that demonstrates that their work has really been moving forward.

When I posted last, in early May, USAS had won fifty-seven campus disaffiliations from Russell over the course of the spring semester in protest of the apparel company’s labor policies in Honduras, specifically its decision to close a newly-unionized factory  Jerzees de Honduras factory in the wake of its unionization.

Since then, nearly thirty more campuses have joined the Russell boycott, bringing the total to eighty-four. New recruits to the cause include merchandising bigwigs the University of Arizona, Brown, Louisville, the University of Florida, and North Carolina State. USAS is now calling this “the largest collegiate boycott of an apparel company in history.”

You can follow the story as it develops at USAS’s Boycott Russell Athletic blog, which I’ve added to our blogroll today.

United Students Against Sweatshops has extended its remarkable string of victories against clothing-maker Russell Athletic.

This week Boston College and the entire University of California system announced their intention to terminate contracts with RA, bringing to fifty-seven the number of colleges and universities that have disaffiliated so far this year.

The campaign against Russell Athletic stems from the company’s history of anti-labor activity in Honduras, specifically its closing of the Jerzees de Honduras factory in the wake of its unionization.

Last week a campus political party at the University of Maryland College Park defied their administration and some state legislators and screened about half an hour’s worth of a hardcore porn movie as part of a free-speech forum.

So what’s happened since?

Well, legislators backed off of their threat to immediately axe UMD’s state funding over the screening, but they’re planning to revisit the issue in the fall. The state legislature directed the university to establish a policy on porn on campus before September 1, and at their Friday meeting the university’s regents told the UMD chancellor to present them with a set of recommendations for such a policy by summer.

In other news, the UMD College Park president, uninterested in picking any new fights with right-wing politicians, has overriden a vote of the university senate to drop the opening prayer from the university’s commencement ceremonies. The senate had voted 32-14 to abandon the prayer, with all of the senate’s student members voting with the majority.

The UMD College Park Student Power Party, the campus activists who staged the porn-screening-slash-free-speech-forum, have apparently seen all their candidates go down to defeat in the student government’s executive board elections. Election results aren’t official yet, though, as one of the other slates has charges of campaign violations pending.

Finally, the university’s student government voted unanimously on Thursday to oppose UMD’s contract with apparel-maker Russell Athletic. More than two dozen colleges and universities have dumped RA since the beginning of the year, in response to findings of labor violations at one of RA’s Honduras factories.

Four pieces of news this morning in the student campaign against Russell Athletic:

  • The University of Montana has become the 20th campus to cut ties with Russell. In a letter to the company, UM Executive Vice President  Jim Foley said, “We believe that your actions constitute a violation of our vendor code of conduct, which we implemented together with faculty, students and staff on our campus and we expect as a licensee for you to uphold.”
  • In an effort to blunt the effect of United Students Against Sweatshops’ Rein In Russell blog, which is located at reininrussell.blogspot.com, Russell Athletic has apparently purchased the domain reininrussell.com, which it is operating as a mirror of its “Social Responsibility Resource Site.” 
  • Russell’s critics have found their way to the Russell Athletic facebook fan page.
May 1 Update: FIFTY-SEVEN campuses. Wow!

On Wednesday we reported that thirteen campuses had cancelled contracts with clothing maker Russell Athletic in response to labor abuses at the company. As of today, that number has risen to nineteen.

When we passed on word that the University of Minnesota had dropped RA, we were under the impression that the action had been taken by Minnesota’s flagship Twin Cities campus alone. As it turns out, the entire U of M system — Twin Cities, Duluth, Morris, Crookston, and Rochester — have disaffiliated, and shortly after Minnesota acted, Harvard followed suit.

Finally, on Friday, NYU became the nineteenth campus to drop RA

NYU’s decision, in the works since early February, would seem to represent a missed opportunity for the activist group Take Back NYU. Had they called for a break with RA as part of their sit-in demands last week, they would have linked their action to a student-led campus movement that is gaining momentum across the United States, and — as it turns out — have been able to point to Friday’s decision as a victory of sorts.

March 19 Update: The total now stands at 21 campuses, and you can find an update on recent organizing here.

May 1 Update: FIFTY-SEVEN campuses. Wow!

About This Blog

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StudentActivism.net is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

To contact Angus, click here. For more about him, check out AngusJohnston.com.
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