Saturday, October 29, 2011

Students Battle a Dallas Cowboys Unit Over College Apparel

September 23, 2011

The Dallas Cowboys have a new merchandising arm that recently jumped into the business of producing college-logo apparel for leading universities, but the Cowboys subsidiary has already encountered a stubborn opponent — student groups that contend it is using overseas sweatshops.

At Ohio State, many students and professors are pressing the university’s administration not to sign a proposed multimillion-dollar deal with the Cowboys’ affiliate, Silver Star Merchandising. And at the University of Southern California, students returning to campus this fall are voicing outrage that their school signed an ambitious 10-year licensing deal with the Cowboys last May while keeping the negotiations secret from the students.

Natalie Yoon, president of the United Students Against Sweatshops chapter at Ohio State, said: “This proposed licensing deal is very problematic given the Dallas Cowboys’ labor history. Just skimming the surface, we found the Cowboys produced merchandise at four factories that have egregious sweatshop violations.”

That anti-sweatshop group, with more than 150 college chapters nationwide, said Silver Star Merchandising had used one factory in El Salvador that, according to monitoring groups, threatened union supporters, had drinking water that was contaminated and illegally forced employees to work huge amounts of overtime. The group cited a second El Salvador plant that factory monitors said had spied on union supporters and put them in worse jobs at lower pay.

United Students Against Sweatshops also said that Silver Star had manufacturing done at an Indonesian factory that suddenly closed, its owners fleeing, without paying $3 million in legally required severance pay owed to its 2,800 employees.

The Cowboys’ Silver Star Merchandising subsidiary acknowledges that it, like many other American apparel companies, has used some factories that had problems, but it said it was trying to improve conditions at those facilities.

“We are very serious about our social compliance responsibilities,” said Bill Priakos, Silver Star’s chief operating officer. “We have a very aggressive code of conduct for all factories representing our brand.”

In 1996, the Cowboys became the first football team to insist on handling its merchandise rights in-house. Jerry Jones, the team’s owner, sought to extend the team’s retail expertise last year by founding Silver Star, which says it is seeking to produce and distribute college-logo apparel for a limited number of prominent universities, starting with U.S.C. and Ohio State. His son Jerry Jones Jr. is Silver Star’s president.

The anti-sweatshop groups have tussled in recent years with Nike, Gap, Russell Athletic and other companies, pushing them to improve poor conditions at some of the factories they use. Now these groups have made Silver Star their newest target, arguing that it, as the new kid on the block, has not done its human rights homework and has an especially bad track record in using factories with violations.

Rick Van Brimmer, Ohio State’s director of trademark and licensing services, said his university would not consider a licensing deal with a company that did not take workers’ rights and codes of conduct seriously.

“Whether we are talking about prospective licensees or existing licensees,” he said, “we are committed to an aggressive and meaningful corporate social responsibility program.” He said this meant engaging with “companies that share those goals” and were willing to work on corrective measures.

Both Silver Star and Mr. Van Brimmer said their philosophy was not to walk away from a bad factory, but to press the factory to make needed changes.

Julia Wang, a U.S.C. sophomore who is a co-president of the school’s Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation, said students were angry that they learned of their school’s Cowboys deal only through news reports.

“We asked how they managed to sign a deal with the Cowboys without any student input when there are all these widely known cases of sweatshop abuse in some of the factories they use,” Ms. Wang said. “We asked, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ and again and again all we’ve gotten are wishy-washy answers. We’re looking for improved policies and action.”

U.S.C. officials defended Silver Star, maintaining that it, like the school’s other apparel licensees, was intent on working with universities and factory owners to ensure that the factories complied with codes of conduct. U.S.C. officials declined to discuss the scope or value of the contract, although they said total sales of U.S.C.-themed merchandise exceeded $20 million a year.

Matthew Curran, U.S.C.’s director of trademark, licensing and social responsibility, said the school required all licensees to comply with a strict code of conduct that barred factories from violating labor laws and having abusive conditions. Mr. Curran said that his university’s agreement with the Cowboys would enable U.S.C. to consolidate more of its marketing and distribution with a small group of companies.

“We believe this will give us and other parties involved an enhanced ability to track, monitor and to ideally have greater influence on those factories,” he said.

When the PT Kizone factory in Indonesia closed without paying $3 million in severance, Nike, one of the factory’s major customers, said it and one of its middlemen would put up $1.5 million toward severance. Teresa Cheng, international campaigns coordinator with United Students Against Sweatshops, complained that Silver Star had been very reluctant to help pay for severance.

“We went to the Cowboys and asked them to tell us the name of one factory they used that complied with Ohio State’s code of conduct, and they couldn’t name a single factory,” Ms. Cheng said.

Mr. Curran of U.S.C. defended Silver Star, saying it stopped doing business with PT Kizone before the factory closed — an assertion the student group contests. Mr. Curran said Silver Star was not contractually or legally responsible to help pay severance, but it “has been in contact” with “other stakeholders in an effort to find a resolution.”

As for the two El Salvador factories, Mr. Priakos of Silver Star said his company represented less than 5 percent of their production. He said a monitoring group was working with the factories to ensure that the factories came into compliance with the law and codes of conduct.

Ms. Yoon, mentioning a November 2010 e-mail by Mr. Van Brimmer, Ohio State’s licensing director, said the university had an unfair, telescoped selection process that unduly favored Silver Star. In that e-mail, Mr. Van Brimmer told Silver Star: “I may be forced into looking at ‘bids’ simply because we are a state agency. But don’t fear that process.”

Mr. Van Brimmer said the process was transparent, thorough, competitive and fair, adding, “No one was promised anything, and to classify it as a ‘charade’ is blatantly untrue, unfair and disrespectful,” to all those involved in the process.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Fall 2010 Introductory Meeting.

Hi, All!

We're BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-ACK. And we're planning on winning more campaigns this year, so circle-up!

Where? On the Trousdale Pkwy side of THH
When? 5pm, Wednesday, 8 September

Whether you can make it to the meeting or not, email scale [at] if you're interested


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

introductory meeting tonight at 6 pm in VKC 101!!!

Hi all

Just a reminder that the introductory meeting for the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation will be tonight (Tuesday) at 6 pm in VKC 101. We will have some food too. The meeting should not last more than an hour. Come learn more about

+ How to get involved in our campaign to ensure that USC apparel is made under fair labor conditions
+ The history of the SCALE campaign, our sit in, and SCALE's 10 year history
+ The national conference for United Students Against Sweatshops in February
+ How to get involved to support worker and immigrant rights in Los Angeles

See you there!


Monday, October 01, 2007


SCALE meets at 7 pm in VKC 100 every Monday.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

new meeting time


just wanted to be sure that everyone knew that scale has a new meeting time and place this semester:

7pm in THH 105.
hope to see you there -- and bring friends!

email scale @ for more info.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

new book ::: check it

There's a new book out, and despite the fact that it was written by someone from ucla (:P), i think that it's pretty important that we pick it up and give it a read. it arrives just as LA is named, once again, the most sweated city in the nation.

the $10 book is a compilation of interviews, stats, stories, company profiles, project, report and publication reviews, edited by ucla prof/advisors kent wong and julie monroe. it's called "sweatshop slaves: asian americans in the garment industry," and it's available for purchase thru ucla. the piece is the outgrowth of a course called, "work, labor, and social justice," and is testament to what such a class can do. i'm under the impression that we're trying to get a research/indep study course together here at 'sc, maybe we can get in touch w/ prof wong, or put him in contact w/ sellers and mr. josh and see about how to build a really dynamic, productive program. the book is proof that it DOESN'T just have to be a class and that's the end of it; you get your credits, your grade, and go home. something that lasts can be put together and put on the market, sales can even go to benefit a group, family, or ngo in the field.

below is the full text of an article put out by ucnewswire. it describes in greater detail both the book and the story behind it.

- m.

New book by UCLA undergrads goes inside LA sweatshops
Meg Sullivan, UCLA

Growing up among the children of garment industry workers in El Monte, Calif., Pauline Phan routinely was handed piecework when she visited the homes of friends and neighbors.

"We'd cut threads off garments or fit newly sewn Halloween costumes into boxes," recalls the UCLA biology major. "We didn't think anything of the work. To us it was just a normal thing to do."

In fact, the daughter of hardworking Vietnamese refugees insists she had no idea that some parents work eight-hour days - or that child labor is illegal - until she enrolled at UCLA.

"I have a lot of friends whose parents work from the moment they get up to the moment they go to bed, and their children would help them in any way they could." she said. "I knew that they had to do what they had to do, and it sucked. But I didn't realize that anything could be done about the problem."

"Work, Labor and Social Justice," a yearlong general education class, opened Phan's eyes. The experience was so inspiring for her and seven other UCLA freshmen that they decided to write a book on the subject.

Four years later, "Sweatshop Slaves: Asian Americans in the Garment Industry" has rolled off the presses just as the students are gearing up to participate in the university's June 16 commencement exercises.

"Having this book finished before graduation makes this time extra special," said Jacqueline Ng, a biology major and contributor. "I feel like I've surpassed my own expectations for myself."

Written in a lively and engaging manner, "Sweatshop Slaves" is first book to focus on Asian American garment workers of Los Angeles.

Compiled from press accounts, in-depth interviews, unpublished labor research and labor newsletters, the 104-page book is designed to be a primer both for students of labor studies and for garment workers eager to learn more about their rights. It also serves as a kind of referendum on progress for the local Asian American garment workers, whose plight became the subject of international attention with the alarming discovery in 1995 of 72 Thai immigrants held captive and forced to work 18-hour days in an El Monte sweatshop.

"The students by and large knew nothing about these conditions before the class," said Kent Wong, director of UCLA's Center for Labor Research and Education and instructor of "Work, Labor and Social Justice." "The book is a fulfillment of their interest to get the word out that sweatshops aren't something that only happened 100 years ago, but they're here and now."

With government enforcement plummeting as the industry mushrooms, "Sweatshop Slaves" paints a pessimistic picture of the effectiveness of legislation passed in the wake of the El Monte raid.

"The greatest challenge facing the California Legislature is no longer enacting laws to improve working conditions, grievance procedure, or manufacturing practices in the garment industry; we have plenty of laws," writes student author Justin Miyamoto, a biochemistry major. "But without financial support for government organizations to implement them, these laws are useless."

A more encouraging picture emerges from grassroots protests. "Sweatshop Slaves" presents the most comprehensive account to date of four successful labor campaigns, including boycotts and other interventions from labor organizers, against clothing retailers and manufacturers.

The book also assembles for the first time in one place profiles of six key labor groups, including a nonprofit organization started by a UCLA graduate.

UCLA alumna Chanchanit "Chancee" Martorell credits her undergraduate work in political science and her graduate work in Asian American Studies with preparing her for the 1994 launch of the Thai Community Development Center. Dedicated to advancing the social and economic well-being of low- and moderate-income Thai immigrants, the CDC responded immediately to the needs of the El Monte sweatshop laborers, who after being discovered were taken into custody by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"Students should be made aware of the 'model minority' myth, because we have many Asians making up the working poor," Martorell writes in the book.

In addition to portraits of labor groups, the book includes profiles of individual "sweatshop warriors," or activists who have been particularly effective in the battle against abusive labor practices in the garment industry.

The most amazing example is a former pediatrician from China, who followed family to the San Gabriel Valley. Daunted by the prospects of learning English well enough to find
employment in the medical field, Helen Chien eventually found work in garment factories plagued by unfair labor conditions, including abysmal pay, filthy restrooms, abusive employers and harsh chemicals without protection.

"I had no idea how cruel some employers could be," Chien writes in the book.

Now a leading labor organizer, Chien tells her story for the first time in print to Phan, who grew up speaking Chien's native Mandarin because Phan's parents, while from Vietnam, are ethnically Chinese.

Meanwhile, a student of Thai heritage interviewed one of the El Monte workers who were surrounded by barbed wire and subjected to 24-hour surveillance by armed guards.

"I felt sure that if I tried to leave, I would be killed," Rojana Cheunchujit Sussman said.

"It was so wonderful to have these bilingual students because we were able to get access to people who hadn't been interviewed before," added Wong, who has been teaching at UCLA for 20 years.

While the book traces the history of sweatshops in the United States, it focuses on the Greater Los Angeles area, which has surpassed the New York area as the center of the North American garment industry. Home to more than 1,000 manufacturers who employ an estimated 90,000 workers, most of them immigrant, the garment and related industries account for as much as 10 percent of Los Angeles' economy, according to "Sweatshop Slaves." Nearly one in five local employees today work in the garment industry, making it Los Angeles' leading manufacturing sector.

Order forms for "Sweatshop Slaves: Asian Americans in the Garment Industry" are available at The book can be purchased for $10 by mailing a check to the UCLA Labor Center, PO Box 951478, Los Angeles CA 90095-1478. No credit card orders are accepted at this time.

For more information, contact Erica Grove at (310) 206-0812

Friday, May 26, 2006

battered in bangladesh

an action alert from the Clean Clothes Campaign:
Please contact the Bangladeshi embassy to demand the release of labor leaders.

Dear friends,

Most of you will have read in the media about the very serious protests of garment workers in Bangladesh. Two workers are confirmed dead (informal reports speak of five), hundreds have been injured, and at least over a hundred factories have been torched in riots over the past few days. After a worker from FS factory in Gazipur (producing among others for Auchan, H&M, Gap, M&S, Inditex, Tesco and Next) was shot by the police, the fighting spread to the Savar EPZ and further, workers tended to single out factories where there had been problems including Universe Garments, Bandhu, Ringshine and A-One.

The protesters call particularly for and end to the low wages and long working hours. Given the unsafe conditions and the almost complete lack of respect for workers fundamental rights, particularly the right to organize and to bargain (including the development of functional industrial relations and grievance mechanisms ) it should come as no surprise that people take to the streets.

Over the past year CCC has regularly called attention to the need for structural measures to end the consistent and ongoing violations in the Bangladeshi garment industry, repeatedly warning that workers are getting desperate and frustrated. With great persistence we, together with unions and NGOs in Bangladesh, have called upon brands, the Bangladeshi government, factory owners and their associations to take immediate action. This has resulted in a lot of talk but minimal concrete improvements in the lives of the workers. Clearly, many of them by now feel they have nothing to lose.

Instead of launching an immediate investigation into the root cause of the riots and measures to address them, as called for also by the ITGLWF, the government yesterday had the police arrest several union officials, either in their offices or on the road (none of them at the protests). One was released yesterday evening, but this evening (24 may) Dhaka time, BIGUF received reliable information that all three of their staff members who were arrested (two organizers and one cleaner) had been blindfolded and severely beaten and tortured by the police.

The lawyer who is helping them reported that she saw them this afternoon when they were brought to court. She said they were given medical aid before they were brought to the court, and personally saw the bruises and cuts. She also said that the court ordered that they remain in detention five more days for further questioning.

They were arrested at the BIGUF office in Gazipur at about 8AM on May 23, while doing their office work. They (and BIGUF officers) have categorically denied that they were part of the Savar and Dhaka labor unrest. They're accused of vandalism, destruction of properties and labor unrest in the garment industry - case No. 51(5) 06 under Penal Code 147, 148, 149, 323, 360 and 379.

Police also arrested Garments Workers Unity Forum President Moshrefa Mishu on May23, reportedly while she was on her way to a press conference.

Please contact the Bangladeshi embassy in your country today (see list below) and call for their immediate release! This is matter of great urgency. Please also contact brands and your own government (for example via their embassies in Bangladesh) and express your concern.

Draft message (please adapt as you see fit):

Ambassador Shamsher M. Chowdhury
Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC
3510, International Drive NW
Washington, DC 20008, USA
PHONE : (202) - 244 - 0183
FAX:(202) - 244 - 7830/2771

May 2006

Dear Ambassador Chowdhury:

I (my organization) is greatly shocked to learn that you have arrested, beaten and tortured a number of union officials in relation to the worker protests of the past days, which follows years of neglicence of
workers rights.

I (my organization) call upon you to immediately release them and instead launch an investigation in the root causes of the riots, focusing in particular on the following problems:

- repression of unions and failure to respect the right to organize and to collective bargaining;
- unfair dismissals of elected worker representatives
- excessively long working hours;
- low rates of basic earnings;
- abuses in piece rate payments;
- the late payment of wages;
- the use of child labour;
- issues of structural and fire safety in the sector;
- the corrupt police practice of charge sheeting workers on the flimsiest of evidence;
- the practice of supervisors acting as labour contractors and illegally raking off a percentage of wages;
- the practice of using hired goons to terrorise and intimidate workers;
- the behaviour of the police and other paramilitary forces when unrest occurs.



for more information on the protests in bangladesh visit:

Protesting Bangladeshis burn factories (reuters)
Bangladesh workers set factories ablaze (china post)
Foreign garment owners to ask compensation from Bangladesh government (people's daily)
Ominous signs on the horizon (financial express)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


The Unheard Voices of the Maquilas: Tijuana Sweatshops Exposed

Special Guest Speakers:
Alejandra Domenzain from Sweatshop Watch, Representatives from the Center for Workers' Information, the Binational Feminist Collective, and a maquiladora worker

Working conditions within maquiladoras, especially for women, environmental and health consequences, and the economic conditions that affect the U.S. and Mexico

- Meet local organizations in L.A. that work against maquilas and sweatshops
- Possible internship and research opportunities
- Meet and become involved with campus organizations that deal with labor and sweatshop issues.

Wed. May 24, 2006
Public Policy #1246, UCLA

This event is co-sponsored by Conciencia Libre and MEChA of UCLA

For more information contact Alejandra Ponce de Leon
ale92868 @

1250 S. Los Angeles St., Suite 212
Los Angeles, California 90015
United States

Thursday, April 27, 2006


the students, professors, and community leaders at the colorado university are one hardy bunch.... . . .... .. .. . . . here at 'sc, we have yet to affiliate with the wrc, but it's no doubt inspiring that people are still willing to go all out for something they believe in.

Still Going

By PAULA PANT Colorado Daily Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 26, 2006 9:41 PM MDT

Three more people joined the Coalition Against Sweatshop Abuses (CASA) hunger strike today, as protest organizers and CU administration officials slowly inched closer to a resolution.

A dozen students yesterday were on Day 14 of a hunger strike aimed at pressuring CU to adopt the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP). Under DSP guidelines, CU apparel must be made by companies that contract 25 percent of their workforce from factories where workers have a living wage and collective bargaining ability.


Virginia Cutshall and Tim Hillman, both of whom haven't eaten in two weeks, looked pale and sickly. Cutshall's normally bright eyes appeared sunken deeper into her face and were marred by a dark reddish hue. Hillman's cheeks, usually thin and well-defined, now appeared gaunt, and the color had drained from his face.

Yet both spoke yesterday's rally with an unwavering passion.

“I will not eat,” Hillman boomed through a microphone, “until this University stands up and respects the basic rights of workers everywhere.”

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

art. theater. sweatshops. tomorrow at noon.

Hey all,

Here are the details on tomorrow's event:

What: Sweatshop Theatre
Who: Brent Blair's "Theater in the Community" class
and the Student Coaliton Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE)

When: Tomorrow: 04/27, 12-1pm.
Where: McCarthy Quad (a reserved, protected space and event)

Professor Blair's class of 15-20 members will be putting on a presentation of "Sweatshop Theatre." The performers will enact the conversion of people all throughout the world into sweatshop workers; particularly those producing our own USC apparel. They will move from the four corners of the quad with large pieces of cardinal and gold fabric and then proceed to move into the action of sewing.Throughout the performances, which will repeat at intervals of about 15-20 minutes, the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation WILL BE PRESENT to answer any questions people might have and engage in a dialogue surrounding these issues. There will be poster boards up on the field which will challenge students to think about the conditions in which their clothing is made.

ps: also, put the word out on your listserves!
pps: any budding photographers out there wanna pick this one up?
ppps: mccarthy quad is the one right between leavey library and doheny, flanked by VKC and the parking structure.

-- d romero