Georgetown University has facilitated a new protocol between Nike, Inc. and the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a monitoring group, as a part of a new licensing agreement between the university and Nike. A new contract for the production of Georgetown apparel was signed Friday and upholds the principles of the university’s licensee code of conduct. The associated protocol ensures the WRC’s independent access to Nike factories that produce collegiate apparel.
In June, Georgetown and its Licensing Oversight Committee (LOC) started working with Nike and the WRC, a labor rights monitoring group for colleges and universities, on the protocol and a new licensing contract. The university allowed its previous licensing contract with Nike to expire on Dec. 31, 2016 after a series of student protests culminated in an overnight December sit-in in University President John DeGioia’s office.
Student protesters were concerned with workers rights abuses and labor conditions in Nike’s overseas factories, specifically the Hansae factory in Vietnam. The WRC reported on local labor law and university licensee code of conduct violations in the factory in 2016. Nike had ceased facilitating independent WRC access to the factory in October 2015, only allowing visits in conjunction with other monitoring groups.
In December 2016, Nike spokesperson Sabrina Oei wrote, “We respect the Worker Rights Consortium’s (WRC) commitment to workers’ rights while recognizing that the WRC was co-created by United Students Against Sweatshops, a campaigning organization that does not represent the multi-stakeholder approach that we believe provides valuable, long-lasting change.” The university agreed verbally after the sit-in to not sign a new licensing contract without independent WRC factory access.
While Nike has not signed the university’s licensee code of conduct, they have now agreed to adhere to the IMG College Licensing’s (IMGCL), labor code standards and additional provisions. The IMGCL, a trademark licensing agent, conducts retail license agreements for Georgetown.
According to Cal Watson (COL’ 07), chair of the LOC and assistant vice president of public affairs and business policy, any differences between the university’s licensee code of conduct and the IMGCL’s labor code standards are covered in the new protocol.
“Under the terms of the protocol, Nike will facilitate access to its collegiate supplier factories for the WRC to investigate working conditions, in our role as a monitor for universities and colleges,” the WRC said in a press release. “The protocol will also facilitate the WRC’s work with Nike, when violations are identified, to achieve remediation.”
The Georgetown Solidarity Committee (GSC), who organized the student sit-in last year, released a statement on their Facebook page today praising the new agreement. “We are optimistic that this will provide momentum for students across the country to continue to pressure their own institutions and take this victory nationwide.”