UNC committee will ask its brand licensees to promote safe labor in Bangladesh

CORRECTION: A previous version stated the Licensing Labor Code Advisory Committee would deliver a letter to the chancellor. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

An issue on the other side of the world is one step closer to being remedied by the actions of those at UNC.

The Licensing Labor Code Advisory Committee recently met to discuss three options — A, B and C — to promote safer garment factory conditions in Bangladesh.

The committee is planning to submit a recommendation to the Chancellor by the end of spring break. The recommendation will ask licensees to comply with the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. This independent, legally binding agreement was created in response to a fatal factory collapse and aims to make garment factories in Bangladesh safer workplaces.

Student Action with Workers is delivering a letter to Chancellor Folt today at 12:30 p.m., asking her to meet with the group once she’s gotten a recommendation from the committee.

Option A requires all UNC collegiate product licensees in Bangladesh to sign the Accord. Option B requires UNC collegiate product licensees to either sign the Accord or meet University standards. Option C requires licensees to either sign the Accord or the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, another worker safety agreement seen in Bangladesh.

“We tried to be very balanced,” said Meredith Weiss, associate vice chancellor for business services and administration. “Sometimes a con can be a pro and a pro can be a con depending on who’s reading it.”

Of UNC’s 340 licensees, 20 have disclosed factories in Bangladesh. Six of those factories are members of the Accord and one is a member of the Alliance. The remaining 13 have not signed either agreement.

Nike, the second largest brand sold at UNC Student Stores, will not be included in either the Accord or the Alliance, a less strict version of the Accord. The committee found that the company had a limited factory presence in Bangladesh.

Eight universities have formally required their licensees to sign the Accord, including Duke University, Columbia University and Cornell University.

The committee, which has been working closely with students in the Student Action with Workers, has been working on a recommendation since October.

Elizabeth Haddix, a staff attorney at the UNC law school, said implementing Option A would best comply with UNC’s Labor Code of Conduct in terms of human rights, labor and business standards.

“It seems like if you’re talking about maximum possible compliance for each of these standards that would be the Accord because it’s enforceable and binding,” she said.

Daniel Gitterman, a public policy professor, questioned whether requiring licensees would affect revenues and thereby decrease money raised for student scholarships.

John Gorsuch, director of Student Stores at UNC who is not a member of the committee, said selling licensed apparel at Student Stores is very important for raising money for student scholarships.

“By statute, our revenues go to go to student scholarships, and that’s a very important component for us putting money into the student scholarship fund,” he said.

The committee favored eliminating option B because it made the University seem indecisive in its stance.

“It doesn’t really behoove us to take a waffling position on this,” Haddix said.

The committee ended the meeting in support of requiring licensees to adopt the Accord.

“We think this is a really positive step forward,” said Student Action with Workers member Olivia Abrecht. “I really hope and expect that the Chancellor takes an active step in this process.”

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