The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday December 2nd

UNC, Nike Consider Labor Issue

Director of Athletics Dick Baddour said the University's negotiators are hoping to incorporate UNC's labor code into the deal, balancing the department's financial needs and UNC's social responsibilities. By doing so, he said, UNC would set an example for other universities.

"We've been talking to Nike about initiatives," Baddour said in an interview with The Daily Tar Heel on Sunday. "Nike knows our concern about labor practices."

Although still in the fourth year of a five-year deal with Nike, UNC began the recontracting process this year, and Baddour said he hopes to finish next month. The Nike-UNC partnership began 10 years ago. Then, in the summer of 1997, Baddour signed a $1.7 million contract with the sportswear giant.

Baddour said he has played an integral part in this year's negotiations, which he expects will lead to a contract that will result in an even larger payoff for UNC.

But getting more for his money hasn't been his only concern, Baddour said. Discussions have addressed the UNC community's changing areas of concern.

Students for Economic Justice and others have pushed UNC in recent years to support fair labor practices. Chancellor James Moeser most recently tackled the issue by sending a letter to Nike in January expressing his disapproval of alleged labor code violations in a Nike-contracted factory in Puebla, Mexico.

Baddour said discussions used to center on public versus private dealings, but now the issue is reconciling money and morals.

Because the University is a member of the Fair Labor Association and the Workers' Rights Consortium, two labor monitoring groups, Baddour said UNC could serve as a role model for other universities. "I think the University has really staked itself out as a leader in this community," he said.

Baddour said a contract can accommodate UNC's financial needs as well as its commitment to fair labor practices. "I don't see there as being tension," he said. "Either one would be a deal breaker."

Baddour said the athletics department relies heavily on its contract with Nike to support UNC's 28 sports. But he said Nike officials also recognize that keeping ties with UNC is in their best interest.

Baddour said UNC officials want to prove that contracts can be negotiated to represent all parties' needs.

"When you talk with Nike about their interests in labor issues, the same things we want are the same things they want."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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