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The Daily Tar Heel

SEJ Meets With Moeser, Shares Labor Concerns

During the amicable conversation, the representatives broached the topics of the alleged poor working conditions in a Mexican factory, the University's membership with independent monitoring groups and the possibility of adding more stringent standards to UNC's labor code of conduct.

SEJ representatives introduced their concerns with a detailed agenda. It included proposals for Nike to provide a representative at the Kukdong factory, eliminate UNC's membership with the Fair Labor Association and add teeth to the labor code.

But the Mexican factory was the main topic of discussion.

The Kukdong factory in Puebla, Mexico is responsible for 85 percent of all Nike products, including UNC sports apparel and Reebok manufacturers.

Allegations were made that labor code violations existed at the factory, and more than 850 workers went on strike last month after five were reportedly fired for being leaders of an independent labor union.

As a result, SEJ demanded a change in UNC's contract with Nike to ensure the civil rights of workers in Mexico. "The timing of this issue was so extreme that we needed to talk to (Moeser) ourselves," said SEJ representative Kea Parker.

"Ultimately, the University's role in universal affairs is up to the chancellor."

SEJ representatives said they want Nike to provide a representative in Kukdong to ensure a free, safe and secret ballot election about the union.

Moeser said he would refer this request to the Licensing Labor Code Advisory Committee, which will hold open meetings Thursday and Monday.

"Basically my response to (SEJ) was that I would keep seeking advice from the (labor committee)," Moeser said. "They seemed content with that."

SEJ representatives also said they wanted to add stronger language to the Code of Conduct that would allow for a termination of the contract with Nike.

"UNC doesn't have meat behind their claims," Parker said. "There's nothing in our code that says, 'If this is broken, we will act.'"

SEJ representatives said they suggested a change of word usage because of a newly adopted labor code of conduct at the University of Michigan. UM has decided to notify the factory if labor problems exist and give it 30 days to fix it. If the situations do not improve, Michigan will cut its contract with Nike.

But Moeser said it is not feasible or desirable to have a 30-day clause that would hold Nike in breach of contract at UNC. "In some situations it may take months to resolve an issue," he said.

SEJ representatives also requested that UNC withdraw its affiliation with the FLA, an independent monitoring group. UNC has been a member of the FLA for three years.

Representatives said they want the University's full commitment to membership in the Worker's Rights Consortium, a labor monitoring group that proponents say puts more pressure on overseas factories.

Moeser said the committee is looking at the University's affiliation with independent monitoring groups.

Overall, SEJ representatives said they were pleased with Moeser's responses. Parker said, "We hope that the outcome of this meeting will be (Moeser's) re-evaluation of Nike, so that in the future we can take quick action."

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