The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday March 22nd

SEJ Presses Moeser for Firmer Stance Against Mexico Factory

About 10 members of Students for Economic Justice and other students congregated at the Old Well on Wednesday to continue protesting unfair labor practices at the Kukdong International factory in Puebla, Mexico. The Nike manufacturer produces UNC garments.

Hundreds of employees at the Nike factory staged a workers' strike Jan. 9 after 20 workers allegedly were fired for complaining about poor food and low wages. The workers want the factory to recognize an independent union that they said they hoped will better represent their interests. This would replace the current one that was established during the previous Mexican government, a longstanding regime the people said they felt was more domineering.

Moeser sent a letter to Nike Corp. last week informing the company that UNC was aware of supposed code violations at the factory and demanded that the workers' freedom to assemble be preserved.

But SEJ members feel this action is not sufficient.

The students, adorned in University apparel, gathered behind South Building, antagonizing Moeser with various chants blaring from a megaphone. "Chancellor Moeser -- call Nike -- send a representative to Kukdong -- ensure the workers freedom of assembly -- rehire the workers who have been fired," they yelled.

Because of the University's affiliation with the Nike factory, SEJ members transformed the Old Well into images of worker oppression.

A mock check for 23 cents written out to Moeser was on wire fencing, attacking the factory's living wages and working conditions. UNC shirts were tied to the structure and labeled with high retail prices and low amounts of money paid to factory workers.

As students milled about the demonstration, SEJ members read a letter from anonymous Kukdong workers describing worker abuses that have supposedly occurred since Moeser's letter was sent.

SEJ members anticipated Moeser would come out of his office and approach them. "We hope Chancellor Moeser heard us," said junior SEJ member Durba Chattaraj. "We definitely hope he sees we appreciate his letter, but it's time to make the follow-up call (to Nike)."

Mary Bratsch, a junior SEJ member, said she is in full support of the group's continued efforts. "I don't think what we're asking is too radical," she said. "(Moeser) can go the next step."

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