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The Daily Tar Heel

Athletic Officials Should Use Leverage With Nike To Get Fair Labor Rights

As a colleague of Director of Athletics Dick Baddour on the UNC Licensing Labor Code Advisory Committee, I respect and applaud his efforts to promote fair labor practices in UNC's relationship with Nike ("UNC, Nike Consider Labor Issue," "University Athletics Committed to Workers' Rights Concerns" op-ed, both April 30). I also know something about the difficult conditions workers producing Nike products face on a daily basis, having interviewed a number of workers at Nike-subcontracted factories in Mexico and North Carolina.

Mr. Baddour cites UNC's promotion of fair labor practices through participation in both the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), two labor rights monitoring organizations. He fails to mention Nike's open hostility to the latter of these organizations, the Worker Rights Consortium, despite the WRC's overtures to cooperate with Nike to resolve pending issues at the Kukdong factory in Mexico. In fact, Nike CEO Phil Knight revoked financial support of his alma mater, the University of Oregon, due to UO's affiliation with WRC.

Nike has a strong financial interest in maintaining its relationship with UNC, giving the University substantial leverage to influence the company to treat its workers fairly. I urge Mr. Baddour and others involved in the Nike contract renegotiations to exercise that influence by telling the company to follow UNC's lead and work for responsible labor practices through the Worker Rights Consortium. Until Nike does so, it falls short of being the true "partner" in labor rights Mr. Baddour claims them to be.

Todd Pugatch


Economics and Spanish

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