The Student Labor Action Movement attempted to deliver a letter to NYU President John Sexton on March 24 regarding what it views as a loophole in the changes NYU has recently made to its student apparel licensing contracts.
NYU wrote to all of its licensees on January 15 stating that, as of March 1, the university would require all licensees to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. The accord was drafted to protect workers from preventable building collapses, fires and other accidents after the collapse of a factory in Savar, Bangladesh, that killed over 1,100 and injured more than 2,500 in April 2013.
JanSport, which is owned by VF Corporation, currently produces apparel for NYU. According to the Collegiate Licensing Corporation and the Worker Rights Consortium, JanSport has never had a factory in Bangladesh, but other subsidiaries of VF, which has not signed the accord, have produced apparel there. The letter asked the university to respond next week regarding its ties with JanSport.
“We, along with worker organizations in Bangladesh, are calling on NYU to cut ties with all VF brands, including JanSport, unless VF Corporation takes responsibility for worker safety in Bangladesh by signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh,” SLAM’s letter read.
SLAM sent a letter to the administration on March 1 also demanding that NYU cut ties with VF until the clothing company signs the accord. Senior Vice President Lynne Brown responded to the letter on March 17.
“VF does have a brand called VF Imageware which does produce in Bangladesh,” Brown said in response. “VF Imagewear does not have a license with NYU and has never produced any NYU apparel in Bangladesh or anywhere else. No VF brand has ever produced NYU apparel in Bangladesh.”
A security guard deferred the group in their efforts to deliver the letter. The group had intended to approach Sexton after his class on the 12th floor of Bobst Library and pass out flyers to his class. The security guard required the students to leave the 12th floor immediately.
Gallatin sophomore and SLAM member Daniel Lightfoot said it is vital Sexton considers the relationship between VF and JanSport when making decisions on which companies produce apparel.
“We don’t intend to cause any harm,” Lightfoot said. “We just want to talk to him about a pressing global problem. Thousands of factories in Bangladesh are unsafe and we want to change that.”
After speaking to Sexton, the security guard agreed to deliver any paperwork to the president.
Brown said the university will continue to monitor its licensees in the university’s letter.
“If anything in their situation changes to lead us to believe they are producing apparel in Bangladesh, we will notify them of the requirement to sign the accord if they want to stay in business with NYU,” Brown said.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, March 25 print edition. Cassandra Cassillas is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.