What’s really up with the DSP?

The University must ensure that Gophers gear wont be made in sweatshops.

Rachel Bauman

Companies to which we license our University of Minnesota trademark are engaged in a global race to the bottom, tempted to discard basic human rights to seek profit maximization. This past February, after tireless campaigns on our own campus and nationwide, the University cut its contract with one such company that had given into this temptation: Russell Athletic. Recently, in a major victory for student movements across the country, Russell reopened the factory found violating workersâÄô rights, rehiring 1,200 Honduran workers that had been fired and threatened due to attempts to unionize. However, this victory still begs the question: Why is the persistence of conscientious students necessary to precipitate action that should be automatic? Workers cannot afford to wait years before conditions change each time a factory breaks a trademark licensee code of conduct; the breach itself should stop university-sanctioned human rights violations, and the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP) would ensure just that. The DSP independently verifies licensee companies producing university logo apparel comply with labor laws and protect the rights of their workers to organize, unionize and receive a fair living wage. Under student pressure, President Bob Bruininks has established a working group to investigate and recommend a DSP position to the University, but after several years, the group has not advanced from a stagnant stalemate position. This is a call for the working group to get off the proverbial fence on which theyâÄôve been comfortably sitting for nearly two years. Bruininks can no longer prolong indolence and shirk responsibility. Justified inaction is well past its expiration date; the time for action has been âÄúnowâÄù for over three years. Support for human rights shouldnâÄôt have to rely upon grassroots rallies while University bigwigs sit in ergonomic chairs and turn a blind eye. The working group needs to work, and our University needs to sign onto the DSP. Rachel Bauman University undergraduate student MPIRG member