The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Friday, June 21, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Student Action with Workers asks for stronger step

UNC agreed to require licensees to sign the Bangladesh safety accord.

Members of SAW with their banner at the Old Well on Wednesday afternoon.  The banner was hung in hopes to gain the attention of Chancellor Folt and UNC students.
Members of SAW with their banner at the Old Well on Wednesday afternoon. The banner was hung in hopes to gain the attention of Chancellor Folt and UNC students.

The group has spent more than a year pressuring the University to require better safety conditions from the companies it works with. On Thursday, UNC announced that all licensees that produce UNC apparel must sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

“This decision reaffirms our commitment to worker safety in Bangladesh and clarifies our position on the requirements for licensees that make UNC-logoed clothing in Bangladesh,” Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement.

But Student Action with Workers member Catherine Crowe says UNC is missing a key demand from their campaign — cutting ties with the VF Corporation.

Crowe said UNC apparel has not been produced in Bangladesh since the group began campaigning against unfair work conditions in 2013.

“Students started organizing around the issue of collegiate apparel being made in Bangladesh in unsafe factories, and so a lot of corporations, like VF (Corporation), actually moved their production of collegiate apparel out of the country into other countries,” Crowe said.

“But they kept the same factories and then produced other things. So, for example, one of the companies in VF is Jansport, so they’ll make Jansport backpacks there instead of UNC apparel, even though it’s the same factory and same conditions — they haven’t repaired any of them.”

The VF Corporation produces UNC apparel but not in Bangladesh — meaning the company meets the new accord requirements to which UNC agreed.

In early January, UNC-system President Tom Ross announced all licensing decisions can be made by individual universities and their leaders. Crowe said Student Action with Workers sent Folt a letter on Jan. 22 to set up a meeting once the chancellor had the ability to make the decision on UNC’s licensees.

Crowe said the group gave Folt until Thursday to either meet or respond to their letter. Though she never met with the group, Folt released her statement on Thursday.

“Instead of meeting with us, she made a decision — despite it not being the decision we would have liked,” she said.

Crowe admitted the situation was complicated, but she still thinks Folt should do more.

“She’s praising what the accord is doing, but, at the same time, not enforcing it in the way that we are able to,” she said.

Junior Tess Mygatt, a member of Student Action with Workers, said the University should evaluate all of the companies it is involved with, not just the places where its apparel is made.

“You’re indirectly endorsing their actions by still keeping the contract,” Mygatt said.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.