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Nike Talks Could Finish As Early As Next Month

Conflicting schedules have made it difficult for UNC officials to meet with Nike about a contract renewal.

Director of Athletics Dick Baddour said the re-negotiation, which began last fall, has been productive and is not under a pressing deadline.

The University is currently in the fifth year of a five-year all-sports agreement with Nike.

This contract provides all 28 varsity sports with Nike uniforms, warm-up gear, practice gear, shoes and some equipment and is worth between $1.8 million and $2 million.

Baddour said he originally hoped to have a new contract signed by spring 2001 but that two things -- scheduling and labor issues -- have delayed the negotiations.

Baddour said it was difficult to coordinate the summer schedules of the Nike representatives and UNC officials involved in the recontracting process, including UNC General Counsel Susan Ehringhaus, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Nancy Suttenfield and Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Stick Williams.

"Because of people's vacations and schedules, it didn't go as quickly as I had hoped," Baddour said.

The negotiating team's talks about the inclusion of labor standards in the contract also have slowed the process, he said.

"Some of our discussions on the labor side got more complicated and detailed," Baddour said.

"We felt it is a really important aspect of the contract, and we really weren't under a timetable. We've got the rest of the whole year."

Baddour said the contract with Nike does not include labor standard stipulations because when the contract was drafted in 1997, the issue of fair worker treatment was not at the forefront.

Since 1997, students actively have protested the University's ties with companies reported to have labor sweatshops overseas.

Students have staged several large demonstrations in the past few years, including a sit-in at the chancellor's office in South Building in April 1999.

Rut Tufts, co-chairman of UNC's Labor Licensing Code Advisory Committee, has been providing the University's negotiating team with advice.

He said a major objective of the recontracting is to get the same labor standard requirements in the Nike sports agreement that are in the University's retail licensing agreement with Nike.

Tufts said there are three requirements that he hopes to get in the all-sports agreement: a list of workplace conditions that have to exist, disclosure of factory sites and mandated affiliation with the Fair Labor Association, a labor monitoring group.

He also said the labor talks with Nike have focused on some agreements that could lay the groundwork for other universities' adoption of labor standard requirements.

But Tufts said he cannot disclose details about the talks because the contract is not finalized.

"We have been exploring some new concepts, but it does require extra time to examine the ramifications of them."

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