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University of Minnesota severs relationship with Russell Brands

There! Now, that didn't hurt, did it?

Contact: Daniel Wolter, University News Service, (612) 625-8510

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL ( 2/25/2009 ) -- The University of Minnesota is ending its relationship with Russell Brands, a major Atlanta-based apparel manufacturer that makes U of M-logoed products.

A number of colleges and universities in the U.S. recently have taken similar action after questions arose surrounding the company's decision to close its factory in Choloma, Honduras. Workers' rights groups have alleged that the closure took place in response to union-organizing activity, and they cite additional claims that factory management repeatedly sought to suppress freedoms of association there.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg led an administrative team that reviewed detailed reports from independent monitoring organizations, the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and the Fair Labor Association, and also asked Russell for a direct response to the allegations.

"The University of Minnesota has a long history of insisting upon fair treatment for workers in factories making University of Minnesota apparel around the world," said Rotenberg. "Our decision to terminate our licensing agreement with Russell is not taken lightly, but is essential to affirm the basic values of this institution. Russell simply has not lived up to the legal standards we have for those companies that manufacture using the U of M mark."

Rotenberg said the University is instructing the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), which manages the University's licensing and trademark agreements, to end the University's ties with Russell effective March 31, 2009.

The university requires that manufacturers of U of M logoed products adhere to its labor code of conduct. The code addresses workers' wages; working hours; overtime compensation; child labor; forced labor; health and safety; nondiscrimination; harassment or abuse; women's rights; freedom of association; and public disclosure of factory locations.

The University's licensing relationship with Russell resulted in $26,471 in University revenue in 2007.

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