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USAC calls on chancellor to demand Nike pays missing wages in unanimous resolution

Giacomo Revelli, a UCLA men’s tennis player, wears a Nike branded shirt. The Undergraduate Students Association Council unanimously passed a resolution April 23 calling on Chancellor Gene Block to demand Nike pay missing wages to workers in the Hong Seng Knitting factory in Bangkok. (Julia Zhou/Photo editor)

By Aimee Zhang

May 20, 2024 12:41 a.m.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council unanimously passed a resolution April 23 calling on Chancellor Gene Block to demand Nike pay missing wages to workers in the Hong Seng Knitting factory in Bangkok.

According to the resolution, the factory violated Thai law by requiring the workers to take “voluntary” leave without pay, rather than suspending them, during low production periods caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thai law requires that workers be paid if they are suspended, and the Worker Rights Consortium – an independent labor rights organization – estimates that the factory owes workers around $800,000 in total, including interest, according to the resolution.

David Ramirez, the author of the resolution and chief of staff of the office of External Vice President Eva Jussim, said the resolution asks Block to request that Nike pay Hong Seng workers their missing wages.

UCLA previously signed a six-year, $46.45 million contract with Nike and its brand Jordan, according to the resolution. According to the Los Angeles Times, the contract took effect in July 2021 and is set to last until 2027.

Ramirez, who is also a fourth-year geography/environmental studies and labor studies student, added that Chancellor Block wrote a similar letter to Adidas – with whom UCLA had a contract at the time – back in 2012, demanding that they pay their garment workers who had also experienced wage theft. He said following that letter, Adidas did actually end up paying their workers, so he would expect a similar letter to Nike could do the same thing.

“If Gene Block were to send a letter and Nike were to do nothing about it, then we would want UCLA to end its contract, … make it a financial burden on Nike for them to do nothing.”

Ramirez said the resolution also pressures ASUCLA to cut contracts with UCLA Athletics and Nike, as Nike manufactures some clothes under the UCLA brand.

Jussim, the resolution’s primary sponsor, said she hopes that action by Block and UCLA may act as a catalyst for other universities to support the Hong Seng workers and labor movements around the world.

“UCLA is an internationally renowned institution. We have taken on leadership roles in the realm of labor, in the realm of stewardship environmentally, and as an innovative leader throughout the world,” she said. “It’s important UCLA takes a stand in support of Nike’s Hong Seng workers because of this ethos and global respect we have.”

Jussim also said she hopes students continue to promote the mission of the Student Labor Advocacy Project, one of the resolution’s sponsors, adding that student support is needed to push Block and UCLA to take action. The organization seeks to defend UC workers and connect students to the labor movement, according to its profile.

Transfer Student Representative Meagan Harmon said in an emailed statement that she co-sponsored the resolution because her office sees supporting workers as a crucial goal.

“I am glad the USAC Council passed the resolution as it will benefit not only the Nike employees, but it also makes a statement that UCLA supports workers and advocates for them,” she said in the statement.

Jussim said she hopes the resolution empowers ASUCLA workers to also feel emboldened to advocate for their rights, such as increased pay or sick leave.

“As UCLA becomes a more labor-conscious institution, we’re hoping that has a spillover effect on the faculty and staff laborers at UCLA, such that we have a better labor environment for everyone working here,” she said.

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Aimee Zhang
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