Members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee (GSC) held a protest to raise awareness of the working conditions that laborers in Nike factories faced as admitted students and their families attending GAAP weekend walked by the university bookstore in Leavey on March 24.
The group passed out fliers that read, “Let Georgetown know that the class of 2021 supports human rights!” Lily Ryan (COL ‘18), one of the students at the protest, said that GSC was trying to make bookstore shoppers aware of the conditions that Nike workers overseas face. “We are just here to remind people that the Nike gear in our bookstore was made in sweatshops,” Ryan said.
Although Georgetown’s licensing contract with Nike expired at the end of last year, the bookstore continues to sell the products that it already has in stock from the apparel company.
The fliers, titled “Support a Just Georgetown! Don’t Buy Nike!,” highlighted the abuses in Nike factories the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) reported on Dec. 6, 2016, which include forced labor, mass faintings, wage theft, unpaid overtime, and the firing of pregnant women.
GSC also encouraged people to choose other apparel companies that they believe have more ethical labor practices, such as Alta Gracia.
After GSC organized a sit-in in University President John DeGioia’s office in December, the university made a verbal agreement with GSC that it would include independent WRC monitoring and reporting at Nike factories as part of any new contract it would sign.
University spokesperson Rachel Pugh wrote in an email to the Voice that the university is continuing to negotiate with Nike with that agreement in mind. “When we allowed Georgetown’s licensing agreement with Nike to expire at the end of 2016, we committed we would only enter into a new licensing contract if it provides for timely and independent factory monitoring by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and ensures that the principles of the Code of Conduct for Georgetown University Licensees are upheld,” Pugh wrote.
Pugh also wrote that the university is looking more closely at what kind of agreement would uphold both worker’s rights and the university’s values, working with the Licensing Oversight Committee, representatives of athletics and student government, and faculty to hear multiple perspectives on the issue.
Beyond the sale of Nike products, GSC also expressed concerns about Georgetown’s overall relationship with the company, including the continued use of Nike attire as the official apparel of Georgetown athletics. “We are very concerned that our athletes are still out on the field being a marketing tool for Nike and their brand when they refuse to acknowledge our values,” Ryan said. “We just want to keep that in mind and make sure that is centered in the administration’s mind when they are making decisions about it.”
Contributing: Graham Piro