Do we want Villanova University to support sweatshops?
Villanova is affiliated with the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), the world’s only independent monitoring agency. On December 6th, 2016, we received a report that detailed the violations at Hansae Vietnam – a factory which produces apparel and licensed goods for Nike and for colleges and universities, including ours.
For more than a decade, Nike has been conducting labor rights audits at the factory. Dozens of audits have been conducted by Nike and by Better Work Vietnam which Nike relies on to assess its Vietnamese suppliers. However, year after year, these audits fell short; they failed to identify the severe labor rights violations at the factory. Until the WRC started an investigation, in October of 2015 of Hansae Vietnam, the unacceptable abuses workers were suffering went undetected. According to a May 2016 WRC report, the investigation was impeded due to “Nike’s refusal to facilitate access for the WRC to the factory.” Among university licensees, Nike is the only licensee that refuses to facilitate access, to its collegiate factories, for WRC labor rights inspections since the Hansae factory investigation’s beginnings to this present day. Without this access, the WRC cannot completely carry out its independent monitoring work on behalf of Villanova University. Due to a special, one-time arrangement that abled the WRC access to Hansae, the WRC report identified these working conditions behind Villanova Nike apparel:
- extensive wage theft
- pervasive verbal abuse and incidents of physical harassment of workers
- pregnancy discrimination
- forced overtime
- illegal restrictions on workers’ access to toilets
- illegal denial of sick leave
- putting factory managers in charge of the factory’s labor union
- dozens of health and safety violations, from factory temperatures well in excess of the legal limit of 90°, to unsafe spraying of toxic solvents, to the chronic problem of workers collapsing due to heat and overwork.
What does this mean? This report means that Nike has knowingly violated our Code of Conduct and, more importantly, our Augustinian values for the past year. Nike has failed to commit to facilitate access for the WRC to its other collegiate factories in the future. We refuse to support a brand that mistreats, abuses, and exploits its workers. We, the Villanova community, strongly encourage Father Peter to place high priority to the university effort to independently monitor Nike’s labor practices.
Our fellow Catholic institution, Georgetown, has made a great advancement as they pledged to not renew their Nike contract unless they allow the WRC full, independent access to all their factories. We aspire to follow Georgetown’s inspiring example. As a community, we have this opportunity and responsibility to truly turn the tide, hold Nike accountable for sweatshop abuses, and be a leader in our global society. And so, we, the Villanova community, strongly urge and support Father Peter to uphold our Catholic ideals and pledge to cut all ties with Nike unless they publicly announce that the WRC will have full, independent access to all the factories that Nike uses.
We also would like to sincerely thank Father Peter for his consideration, concern, and efforts in terms of this urgent, human rights issue.
Villanovans Against Sweatshops, and Concerned Students, Faculty, and Staff