A win for labor rights at OSU

November 28, 2012

AFTER A long campaign that began in June 2011 against a monopoly deal between Ohio State University (OSU) and Silver Star Merchandising (a subsidiary of the Dallas Cowboys), United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and other activists in the Ohio State University community are celebrating a victory for labor rights.

As of November 15, OSU rejected a contract with Silver Star and instead made a $97 million deal with two apparel and retail businesses, J. America and Fanatics Inc. Silver Star has a history of human rights abuse and retaliation against workers. According to the USAS website, management at a factory in Bangladesh "was caught making threats of violence against union supporters, and in El Salvador at Ocean Sky, the plant is surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by guards armed with shotguns."

Actions leading to the contract included many meetings with administrators, protests and meetings outside OSU President Gordon Gee's office, as well as an action at an OSU Board of Trustees meeting.

On January 9, less than a week before the contract decision, five USAS members and two other students interrupted a Board of Trustees meeting. As Gee began to give his report on how the university was doing, students stood up and gave their own report on the university, leaving their evaluation on labor rights open until Gee gave an answer as to whether he would reject Silver Star's monopoly deal. Gee refused to give an answer and said that he does not negotiate in public.

After several minutes, the activists were escorted outside the building by campus police. One student was grabbed by the arm and dragged out of the room by a police officer after returning to get her bag. Others were asked by police for their student IDs and had their names and license plate numbers written down. Later in the meeting, Gee was given a 3 percent pay raise worth $25,036--as well as a $333,812 bonus.

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