Open letter to the OSU Board of Trustees
Over the course of the past year our organization, United Students Against Sweatshops, has been trying to work in good faith with OSU administrators to bring to light the issues involving the current bidding process surrounding the future of licensing at the Ohio State University. In May of 2011 we brought to the attention of university administrators that one of the bidders, Dallas Cowboys Merchandising, were involved with serious labor rights violations. Our advice to stop the current bidding process was not heeded. These sources reveal a severe problem with the Cowboys’ labor rights compliance. As an engaged affiliate of the WRC, the FLA, and as a research institution that seeks to uphold human rights, we assume that the University understands these examples put the reality of the Cowboys’ labor practices in direct contradiction with OSU’s own stated values and standards, especially those stipulated in our Code of Conduct for OSU Licensees.
Recently the Department of Justice released their decision stating that Universities could implement the Designated Suppliers program by requiring all licensees doing business with our university comply with DSP standards. This recent decision requires the university to return to its prior decision to implement the Designated Suppliers program. As we know the university has extended its current contracts with licensees, and as new contracts are drafted it is time to require the standards set forth in the Designated Suppliers program be included in all contracts. We hope that the university would not want to embroil itself further in scandals surrounding the violation of the Department of Justice approved program by signing an exclusive licensing deal with the Dallas Cowboys merchandising.
More than six months ago, students raised suspicions about whether Director of Trademarks and Licensing Rick Van Brimmer was actually engaging in a good faith and fair process, as the RFP creates conditions that qualify the Cowboys as the only single entity which currently has the capacity to fulfill the criteria listed. All of our suspicions have been confirmed after reading through a year’s disturbing correspondence between Mr. Van Brimmer and Mr. Bill Priakos, COO of the Cowboys, obtained through public records requests. In the e-mails, Mr. Van Brimmer implies to Mr. Priakos that the Cowboys will be guaranteed the deal and that Mr. Priakos need not fear the RFP process.
Why would the university continue to consider doing business with a corporation that is a serial abuser of workers rights? Can we afford to drag the Ohio State name through the mud again surrounding a rigged deal with the Dallas Cowboys? Reputable news sources like the New York Times, and ESPN have found this information so disconcerting that they have produced pieces that people all across the nation have seen. We were shocked and disturbed to watch ESPN’s piece, “Cowboys Clothing Controversy” broadcast on national television, exposing yet another case of egregious sweatshop abuse in the manufacture of Cowboys deal. Students have attempted to engage in good faith dialogue with OSU administrators for more than six months. Watching OSU get dragged onto national news for yet another scandal - this time regarding sweatshop abuse - is disappointing and embarrassing for OSU students. The RFP process rigged in favor of a serial human rights abuser is out of control. We urge you to intervene, and to save the good name of the University by immediately ending the rigged bidding process for a single source licensee.
We implore you as a Trustee of the University to reject the current bidding process and continue working towards better standards for our university apparel production by upholding your commitment already made to implementing the DSP and moving forward in requiring the DSP standards of all current OSU licensees. Will you as member of the universities board of trustees stand beside students, professors, workers who sew OSU apparel, and the larger Columbus community, and stop the Dallas Cowboys from associating the OSU name with sweatshop abuses, and further scandal?
United Students Against Sweatshops