Georgetown has committed not to renew its licensing contract with Nike unless the company allows the Worker Rights Consortium independent access and reporting of complaints regarding factory conditions, announced Chief of Staff Joseph Ferrara at 8:30 p.m. today.
The announcement concluded a nearly 35-hourlong sit-in by members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee in University President John J. DeGioia’s suite of offices.
Ferrara said the deal is a successful conclusion for both the university and GSC.
“We respect our students’ right to express themselves, to advocate for the issues that they think are important and I’m just glad that we’ve reached an agreement,” Ferrara said in an interview with The Hoya.
Seventeen GSC members began the sit-in at about 9:45 a.m. yesterday. Nine of them voluntarily left the office at about 8:30 p.m.
Eight students who stayed in the suite overnight may face university sanctions for violating the Code of Student Conduct for disruption of university function and failure to comply with an officer after spending the night in the suite.
DeGioia, GSC representatives and the Licensing Oversight Committee are planning to meet before Dec. 14 to discuss the Nike negotiations, according to Senior Director for Strategic Communications Rachel Pugh in a statement to The Hoya.
The meeting is set to address the university’s commitment to only sign a contract with Nike that ensures independent access and reporting for the independent labor monitoring organization Worker Rights Consortium and discuss how labor codes can be incorporated into a future agreement with Nike.
The agreement does not stipulate that Nike sign Georgetown’s Code of Conduct for University Licensees, which contains clauses related to standards of labor, wages, and health and safety issues.
However, GSC member and one of the eight students Lily Ryan (COL ’18) said the agreement will ensure Nike agrees to a stricter code of conduct than it currently follows.
“There will also be negotiations on the code of conduct and if Nike doesn’t sign our code of conduct they have to have one that is equal to or better than ours,” Ryan said in an interview with The Hoya.
In an email to The Hoya at 9:30 p.m., Nike spokesperson Sabrina Oei reaffirmed an earlier statement on the company’s intention of continuing contract negotiations with Georgetown.
“We remain hopeful of reaching an agreement on Georgetown’s licensing contract,” the statement reads.
The Worker Rights Consortium, an independent factory monitoring agency that investigates Georgetown’s partnered companies, said in a Nov. 17, 2015 memo to member universities that Nike had denied it access to the Nike factory in Hansae, Vietnam, following the strike of thousands of employees at the factory in November 2015.
The agreement comes after an extended negotiation process between Ferrara, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and GSC members. Professor Joe McCartin, director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, and professor of international business ethics John Kline, who is an LOC member, served as mediators between administrators and GSC members for the negotiations.
Seven members continued negotiations with the university administration throughout the day after Isabelle Teare (COL ’18) left early Friday morning, citing health concerns.
“Due to health concerns, Isabelle Teare left the sit-in on Friday morning. We are proud of her and her commitment to justice for Hansae workers,” GSC wrote in a statement to the press.
At about 5 p.m., Ferrara told students that the administration could only commit to meetings with GSC members.
“We are not going to solve Nike today,” Ferrara said. “But here’s what I want to commit to. One is, starting on Monday we can have a daily meeting, so that you all know exactly what’s going on in these Nike negotiations day to day. Number two, I talked to President DeGioia and he is willing to meet with you.”
Despite reaching an agreement with GSC, Olson said the eight students who stayed in the suite last night will receive notice regarding disciplinary actions within the next week.
“All I said to the students is that they will be hearing from student conduct this next week and that’s all we know,” Olson said. “What we often do in those cases is work with students and try to be reasonable.”
Kline said the sit-in builds on the efforts of a 1999 GSC sit-in in the office of then-President Leo O’Donovan, S.J., to protest the working conditions in factories producing officially licensed Georgetown apparel, which resulted in the creation of the Licensing Implementation Committee.
“The reason we have a code is that students protested and demonstrated and pushed the administration to get one in 1999,” Kline said in an interview with The Hoya. “This is an attempt by the students, in my view, to remind the administration of why they adopted the code and why they need to maintain the standards of the code.”
In addition to speaking at a GSC rally in support of the sit-in yesterday, Kline circulated a letter to Georgetown faculty at about 6:00 p.m. today asking faculty to sign in agreement that the university should hold Nike to the same standard as all other licensees.
According to Kline, by signing the contract Nike would be legally bound to abide by Georgetown’s labor standards. Nike is the only licensee of the university that has never signed, or been required to sign, the code of conduct.
“Nike has not signed the code of conduct for more than a decade. They sign it, they’re contractually legally bound to follow it,” Kline said. “Right now we go to them and we say ‘let the WRC in the Hansae factory,’ we have no legal grounds to ask for that. They are not bound by a code.”
GSC member Kory Stuer (COL ’19), who remained in the office suite until the agreement, said GSC will continue working to protect workers’ rights at the Hansae factory.
“Those conditions aren’t over, and though we’re very proud of Georgetown for realizing its Jesuit values and taking a stand on them, the fight isn’t over,” Stuer said in an interview with The Hoya. “And I think we’re very cognizant of that. This is a huge victory, but this isn’t the end.”
Hoya Staff Writers Jeff Cirillo, Ian Scoville and Toby Hung contributed reporting.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.