The Arizona Desert Lamp

Sweat-free athletic gear

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 15 April 2009

Russell AthleticThe Wildcat reports today on manufactured malcontent, courtesy of the nationally-syndicated Worker Rights Consortium, over the recent closing of the Jerzees de Honduras factory:

The report claims Russell Athletics breached its contract with Collegiate Licensing Company, which handles licensing contracts for the UA. The contract was last renewed in August 2007 and is set to expire in March 2010.

The contract stipulates that Russell Athletics allow its employees the right to organize labor unions. However, the Worker Rights Consortium report claims the Honduras factory was closed primarily because of employees’ efforts to organize.

Open a factory abroad, they call you an anti-American “outsourcer”; close the plant, and they claim you’re violating basic worker rights. Unfortunately, the article failed to include Russell’s take [PDF] on the issue:

Weakening global economic conditions in early 2008 caused a dramatic decline of the apparel market, ultimately forcing us to close a total of eight manufacturing plants. All told, 25 Honduran facilities closed in 2008, according to a report commissioned by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and conducted by A.L.G.I., a group of labor compliance experts. This wasn’t just Russell, and it wasn’t a decision targeting just one plant. This is how all businesses are trying to cope with the worst economy in decades. Of the eight plants we closed, seven were non-union.

A comprehensive report on the matter was also delivered by the Fair Labor Association, an organization dedicated “to ending sweatshop conditions in factories worldwide.” The FLA came to the following conclusion:

Upon review of the three third-party reports and other information at our disposal, the FLA concludes that FOA Benchmark Number 9 was not breeched in this case. Given the rapidly declining orders for certain products, the overall global economic context, and the wave of factory closures throughout the apparel export sector in Honduras, including three Russell factories in the last year, the FLA finds the economic factors persuasive and accepts that Russell’s decision to close JDH was principally a business matter.

Unless you accept the WRC’s claims as holy writ, it’s hard to claim that the Labor Code [PDF] has been violated. The relevant clause states that:

9. Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining: Licensees shall recognize and respect the right of employees to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Russell certainly respected the right of the union to form at JDH, back in 2007. There is, however, nothing in this code about “a right to a job,” a ‘human right’ as false as the numerous positive rights masquerading as civil liberties in the UN’s Declaration.


2 Responses

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  1. mattstyer said, on 15 April 2009 at 10:52 pm

    False, of course, because the libertarian utopia of negative freedom and negative rights only is totally natural – it’s how nature INTENDS us to be. There’s nothing at all arbitrary about that order, or about saying “the only true rights are the ones which sustain the normal course of affairs for that order.” Nothing could be worse or more false than rights which lay stake to a different set of affairs.

    Good reporting, though.

  2. Evan Lisull said, on 16 April 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Yeah, ‘false’ has way too many logical consequences; if I wrote this again, I’d probably use ‘dangerous.’

    I would posit this, though: while negative liberties can be expanded without trespassing on other negative liberties, it is categorically impossible to impose a positive liberty without somehow trespassing on negative liberties. (Real world implications here are limited, so I present this to you as a philosophical argument.)

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