Wednesday, February 4, 2009


At last Sunday's event, Joe Ebaugh, Director of Licensing, continues the typical lines of the Administration against the Designated Suppliers Program:
Lozano said she hopes the university will become a part of the Designated Suppliers Program, an agreement that, in theory, would limit the university to factories with fair working conditions. The Workers Rights Consortium, a nationwide labor rights organization, designed the program, which more than 40 other universities already support.

But Joe Ebaugh, the university's director of licensing, said there are still business plan questions that need to be answered.

"We're not in a position to adopt the DSP," Ebaugh told members of Feminism Without Borders after the event ended.
The position he's referring to, of course, must be catering to corporate interests before workers rights and ignoring the obligations of our university. In that sense, we are definitely not in a position to adopt the DSP.

The article continues:
Ebaugh said he has evaluated three reports commissioned by the Fair Labor Association about the closing of Jerzees de Honduras and that the next step is to ensure Russell Athletic complies with the suggestions of the FLA's report. Ebaugh is taking part in a conference call with the Workers Rights Consortium today to get its input on the situation.

"We have the same goals; it's our tactics we disagree on," Ebaugh said.
This is a familiar line. In fact, at a very similar event last year where sweatshop workers came to UMD to speak, Ebaugh gives us the same line:
"The fact that we don't endorse the DSP does not mean that we don't endorse workers' rights," Ebaugh said. "The DSP and the university both have the same goals. It's just the tactics we differ on."
I think this is really an essential difference between our advocacies, and I don't think the difference in "tactics" is quite as trivial as Ebaugh may wish to portray. When you continually adopt "tactics" that fail to protect workers and allow rampant violations of existing Codes of Conduct, that doesn't count as a serious commitment to workers' rights. Moises, union President, recognized this in the case of Jerzees de Honduras case, saying "What the corporation accomplished was to wipe its hands clean of its workers." Thus, the Administration has washed its hands of the closing of Jerzees de Honduras and the broader plight of workers making UMD apparel. Sure, that is a "tactic"... but of facilitating the suppression of workers, not of honoring their rights.

The workers themselves had a different tactic in mind. They very explicitly called upon students to support them and their organizing effots. Norma specifically said that students holding their universities and the corporations they deal with accountable is essential to help the workers and stop the union-busting.

So, we as students need to adopt these tactics to work in solidarity with workers like Norma and Moises. We need to write to Russell, we need to talk to our Administration, we need to show those in power that we as students care and will not let the closing of Jerzees de Honduras or broader violations of workers' rights go unpunished.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Jerzees de Honduras Organizers Speak Out!

This Sunday, Feminism Without Borders had the opportunity to host worker/organizers from the factory Jerzees de Honduras, which mades UMD apparel but was unfortunately closed by Russell Athletics to repress unionization on Saturday.

A few interesting notes about the telling testimony of Norma and Moises, VP and President, respectively, of the union in JDH, particularly as it relates to the comments of Joe Ebaugh, UMD's Director of Licensing who negotiates contracts with companies like Russell Athletics.

Joe Ebaugh must be commended for coming out to this event. We e-mailed him an invitation and also publicly called for his attendance, and he did come, despite the odd timing on Superbowl Sunday. However, once again, he seems to be hearing but not really listening!

A particularly interesting interaction was when Ebaugh questioned whether Norma and Moises had recieved the severance package with future opportunities for employment and backed pay, which Ebaugh had heard was promised by Russell executives. Of course, Norma and Moises were familiar with these empty promises; they revealed that in fact they had been blacklisted so they can no longer find work in other factories in Honduras. Notices of jobs that didn't exist were posted on the walls of the factory and all the workers were threatened to try to get the names of the union organizers. When they didn't give in, all workers were blacklisted, with the exception of some of the managers who have been feeding info on the unionization movement to their superiors. Quite a severance package!