Cornell Organization for Labor Action led a banner protest in front of Day Hall demanding that President Hunter Rawlings take decisive action against Nike’s violation of labor rights on Wednesday.
Two years ago, Nike refused to allow the independent monitoring of their factories by the Workers Rights Consortium. To date, Nike has still not made proper changes, according to COLA.
“We are here to ask Cornell to cut our contract with Nike or get a written agreement that Nike will allow unmediated, unequivocal access to all of the factories whenever it is required,” said Allison Considine ’17.
Sophorn Yang, the Cambodian Trade Union leader and President of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, joined COLA in their banner protest. Yang attested to the first-hand experience with labor abuse and working violations done by Nike and expressed support and gratitude to COLA for their efforts.
It has been over a year since COLA has been pushing for direct action against Nike’s violations. Though there has been cooperative conversation between COLA and the administration regarding Nike’s contracts with the University, the student organization expressed the need for immediate action.
“We think that Nike is exploiting the collegiality of our relationship to further their interests,” Considine said to Joel Malina, the vice president for University Relations.
Malina promised a response “as soon as possible,” and noted that the last time the administration received a letter from COLA around a year ago, they “immediately began working on this” and promised the same with COLA’s most recent letter.
“I feel like having Sophorn here and showing the administration that this is someone who is affected by all of these delays and by the bureaucracy not wanting to cut this contract is definitely a step towards success,” said ILR student Nicole Oliveira ’20.
According to Oliveira, the administration had been waiting to make sure of Nike’s violation in order to cut their contract with Nike. They claimed that there was “not enough evidence” to make a decision.
“You’re not going to get any more evidence than presenting them with someone — a living, breathing person who has lived through the abuse,” Oliveira said.
Over the past year, COLA has been conducting “teach-ins,” educational events spreading awareness about the mission and objectives of COLA, several letter drops, and meetings with the licensing oversight committee — the committee responsible for managing licensing agreements between companies and Cornell.
“For a school that has one of the best labor schools in the country and has pioneered cutting lots of these contracts before, what is it about Nike that’s been taking so long?” Oliveira asked.